No construction, but plenty of action on Vernon's town center project

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:56

    VERNON-After years of planning, the township broke ground in October of 2003 on the main street for its new town center. Soon, earth-moving equipment was cutting a right-of-way from Church Street on Route 94 south toward an intersection with Route 515 across from the A&P Plaza. Then visible activity came to a screeching halt, and even town officials admit that some Vernonites think the project has been abandoned. That, say township officials, isn't the case. "This is an idea that has evolved over a long period of time," says Deputy Mayor Janet Morrison, who along with Councilman Jeff Patterson, will at the Jan. 24 council meeting present an update on recent developments in the town center project. The idea for a town center was originally developed by the Vision for Vernon Task Force, a group of residents who sought to marry the ideas of economic development in Vernon with the unique rural character and scenic beauty it has fostered for generations. By 1999, it had become a prevailing issue in the Town Council elections. On Oct. 24, 2003, after a lengthy process of gaining the necessary approvals from Trenton, elected officials and local dignitaries started the project with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Several setbacks and delays have left the public wondering if the project is in doubt. Morrison says she and Patterson have been serving as the council representatives on a committee representing all segments of the community that has been given the job of determining what will be in the town center and how it will look. The committee meetings were driven by three objectives. The first was to comply with the original intent of the town center project: that the architecture not only be pleasing to the eye, but also reflect the true town character of Vernon. The second objective is to ensure that the area have an appropriate mix of commercial and residential development, with neither dominating the other. The third was that the project include local developmental input. Morrison noted that the project should not be viewed as anti-business, which is why the feedback from local developers was imperative. She adds, that "this is a large project," one which needed to have county and state approval for sewers and wastewater treatment. The project also required the town to determine a way to deal with the storm water runoff from the center, which will be solved by an underground basin at the site of the road department garages.