Up to $15,000 for looking into coordinating master plan, By Thomas Hoffman Vernon Vernon Township and Franklin Borough have each been tapped by the Highlands Council to receive up to $15,000 in grants. The money is to be used to study potential benefits of conforming with the council’s Regional Master Plan in conjunction with their own respective local master plans for land preservation. The New Jersey Highlands Region is a green belt comprising an area of more than 850,000 acres in northwestern New Jersey, stretching from Mahwah to Phillipsburg. The Highlands Region includes more than 88 municipalities and parts of seven counties - Sussex, Warren, Bergen, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic and Somerset. The Highlands Act creates a framework for regional planning as a means to protect natural resources in the Highlands Region. Under the Highlands Council’s grant program, both Vernon Township and Franklin Borough are eligible to receive $5,000 to $15,000 to conduct initial assessments to determine how their respective local master plans “map with our preservation area plans,” said Eileen Swan, Executive Director at the Highlands Council in Chester. The initial assessments, which are typically conducted by master planners and engineers assigned by participating townships, are aimed at determining similarities and differences between the Highlands Council’s Regional Master Plans and individual township plans, said Swan. Louis Kneip, Vernon Township’s Director of Planning & Development, said he wasn’t able to comment on the grant since he had not yet been notified by the Highlands Council. Jim Kilduff, Planning and Community Development Director for Franklin Borough, said Franklin’s master planner, Ken Nelson, will be working on their assessment, along with other engineers as needed. Although the Highlands Council has asked participating municipalities to submit their findings within 90 days of executing a contract, he said the Council will provide Franklin Borough an extension if it’s needed. That’s because the borough is in the process of updating its own local Master Plan this year. Franklin Borough completed its last Master Plan in 2003, said Kilduff. “We hope to get the work done as soon as we can,” he said. Franklin Borough officials expect to meet within the next few weeks to discuss the project.