Petition filed to halt Camp Sussex purchase

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  • Photo by Chris Wyman Local residents aiming to quash the potential Vernon Township Council’s purchase of Camp Sussex were collecting signatures at the A&P supermarket on June 28. From the left are Steve Vichiconti, petitioner Robert Gerry, and Gerry’s wife Christa.

A committee of petitioners seeking to stop Vernon Townnship's acquisition of Camp Sussex submitted a petition with 803 signatures to Township Clerk Lauren Kirkman on Monday.

The petition looks to establish an ordinace to prohibit the purchase of the 88-acre parcel of Camp Sussex the township is considering purchasing and asks that any future purchase made with Open Space funds to be put to a public vote.

According to Sally Rinker, one of the petitioners, more than 650 signatures were required by law to compel the Township Council to vote on the matter.

The petition is waiting for certification from the township clerk.

Council President Brian Lynch had previously said when he had first heard of the petition effort that the petition was premature.

Many concerns have been raised since the Environmental Commission proposed the township acquire the property and turn it into a park for passive recreation. Since then concerns have been raised over how much of the Open Space fund would be used to purchase and clean up the property and how much the project would cost. There also have been questions regarding the use of Lake Glenwood, a portion of which is attached to the property.

Many residents in the area have urged the township not to allow public access to the lake.

Also called into question recently were whether photos of syringes used by the Environmental Commission to illustrate drug use at Camp Sussex actually came from the camp.

“We saw no information on environmental concerns," Rinker said at Monday's meeting. "This is a blighted property that is required to be cleaned up by the owners."

Rinker and her fellow Committee members believe that demolition and remediation of the property will cost in advance of 1 million dollars, which would utilize the entirety of the fund. Furthermore, the issue has been raised as to whom is responsible for cleaning up the property and according to petitioners it should not be the taxpayers of Vernon but the legally deeded property owner, Empire Tax Fund Inc.

If certified, the petition will be put to the Town Council for a vote. Should the Council vote against adopting the ordinance it will then to a public vote on the Nov. 4 ballot.

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