To the Editor:
As a Vernon resident I’ve been following the discussion of the proposed purchase of property to create a walking trail and pump track. Wanting more information regarding specifics of this project, I sent an email to our town council and mayor on Sunday, March 7. I did not expect a response as it was the weekend. By the end of the day on Monday, March 8, I had not even received an acknowledgement of my email.
That night I attended the scheduled council meeting virtually and took advantage of the public comments portion of the meeting to address the council. I did not reiterate my questions. I simply asked if they could answer them during the council open comments portion of the meeting. Council President Shortway did respond, with the same information that I’d already accessed in other forums. He did add that they could not provide a cost analysis as they had not yet received estimates for the work.
I find this very concerning. As a private citizen, if I were to buy a property on which I planned to build, I would have engineering plans, architectural plans, construction estimates, etc. I would have a budget and then work within that budget.
In addition, I asked if there was any negotiation with the current owners regarding the purchase price of the Baldwin property. I did not receive an answer to that question. Again, as a private citizen I’ve purchased real property, and negotiation of price is an expected part of the process.
Below is my email to the council and mayor. I was hesitant to share this via the media, but after contacting them directly, attending a meeting, asking my questions and not receiving any response, I feel I have no other recourse.
I again ask the Vernon Township Council and Mayor to provide a comprehensive cost analysis for this proposed project, including future maintenance costs, insurance liability and tax implications. Additionally, please provide an analysis of the revenue expected from the Hotel Tax, which is marked to help fund this project.
Good Afternoon Mayor and Council Members,
I am writing to you to ask some questions about the proposed purchase of the Baldwin property.
As many Vernon residents, I’ve watched meetings, read the paper and seen numerous posts on social media about this issue. The most recent information I’ve read was a summary in The Vernon Post today. Based on those comments and others, I have several questions. Full disclosure, I did not support the referendum to use the Open Space funds and I’ve never supported the trails. I think a pump track is a great idea, I fondly remember bringing my oldest son to the one Mountain Creek had for a short time after the fire.
If our town proceeds with these plans, I truly hope they benefit our community. I don’t question your interest in making the best decisions for Vernon, even if we may disagree. And please know, I appreciate your willingness to volunteer. I look forward to your responses.
Did you secure an independent appraisal of the property? It seems that if there truly cannot be any type of commercial construction on that site, the price is very high. Did you attempt any negotiation with the owners? Or, did they present the price and we agreed to pay it?
Can the Open Space funds left over from the purchase (about $339,000 if my math is correct) be used to build the pump track and trail?
Will the trail be paved and handicap accessible?
Will there be paved parking?
Will there be bathrooms?
If the answer is yes to the above three questions, do you have cost estimates and from where will these funds come?
Do you have a projection of the tax revenue from the Short Occupancy Hotel tax? If so, please share it.
Can you respond to the letter from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection saying that the land is not a known habitat for bobcats? And provide documentation showing that it is?
Will there be a turf field or area (or did I misunderstand your post)?
Do you have a cost analysis for yearly maintenance?
I understand the insurance will be minimal, have you found out the exact cost from other towns that have a pump track?
Thank you for taking the time to respond, I hope you are enjoying this nice sunny day.