Vernon Council notes

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:53

    VERNON-The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection has finally approved the township's plans for a town park at Maple Grange, but the battle over who pays the legal fees for the battle to preserve 40-some acres as a historic monument goes on. At Monday night's council meeting, Township Attorney Joseph Ragno said that the state had forwarded a finalized contract on the park under which the town can develop ballfields on a portion of the land while the state runs the historic Lenape Indian site and a Green Acres park on the bulk of the tract. The key requirement is that the town do everything possible to maintain an existing line of trees and vegetation between the entry to the playing fields and the historic site. At the same time, Ragno said he had been notified that the two law firms that represented the Native Americans in their successful battle to preserve an archeological site that is said to contain artifacts dating back 10,000 years will appeal a Superior Court's decision on the fees to which they are entitled. Piper Rudnick is the Washington law firm under whose aegis most of the case was fought. Womble Carlyle is the firm for which Greg Werkheiser, who began litigating the case while with Piper Rudnick, now works. Together, the firms had filed for more than $650,000 in legal fees under New Jersey law that enables private individuals to pursue suits against governmental agencies to protect the environment. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the law firms were eligible to recover fees relating to just one portion of the case, when an injunction was awarded to the Lenape to stop the township from developing the park. He set those fees at $25,000. The fees are not covered by the township's insurance. The township accepted that judgment. The fact that Werkheiser and his firms appealed, said Ragno, "makes it fairly clear money was a motivation." Werkheiser, contacted in Washington, declined to comment until he files the legal briefs in support of his appeal. No parking? The council has referred to public safety officials a request by the Vernon Township Board of Education to ban parking on Route 565 within 900 feet of the entrance to the high school. The problem, according to the board of education, is that there is sufficient parking at the high school only for cars driven by seniors. But as juniors get their licenses, many drive to school, park on Route 565 and walk to school. Superintendent Anthony J. Macerino sent a letter to the parents of all students, asking the parents not to allow juniors to drive to school. He then asked the council to intervene. Route 565 is a county road and, said Township Manager Don Teolis, and "all we can do is have the police do a report and work with the county." Deputy Mayor Janet Morrison said, "I don't think the council should get involved." Councilman Phil Weiler agreed. "I don't want to get involved at all in who can go there. If it's a safety issue, and we can document it, we should go on that basis alone." Teolis said no neighbors have complained.