Future of public land discussed

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:42

    A piece of property in the middle of town that is under lease to the fire department became a main topic of discussion at borough hall Tuesday night when Councilman Jim Williams mentioned there is a "fear" among firemen that when the lease runs out, the landscape could change substantially. Williams said that the fire department has done large amounts of work to the property over the years, and wants it to remain intact even when the lease expires by or before 2017. The property, located off of both Parker Street and Buckwheat Road, is owned by the town but has been under lease to the volunteer fire department for many years. Williams worried that a shift in either the town's political makeup or demographics could lead to a desire to use the land for recreation or even to develop it. "The fire department's fear is that if the councils and mayors ever change to the point where the lease runs out, then where would the fire department be?" Williams asked. "They will pursue this, as I will." Mayor Doug Kistle also noted that there are currently some small sinkholes on the property, which could lead to legal ramifications if the land is ever used for recreational means. "That's my concern," Kistle said. "We spotted a few sinkholes there, and I'd be scared to death if kids run on that property." While no formal action was taken, the council agreed that it may want to study the matter further. In other business, Councilman John Sowden IV reported that while he was glad that Franklin will not be included within the state's Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act program area, stormwater issues and Council of Affordable Housing (COAH) mandates could still have an effect on the borough. Many local officials of towns within the proposed regional area, which includes parts of Sussex, Morris, Passaic, Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, have contended that the proposed state act attacks home rule. The state wants to all but eliminate major development in at least half of the region, which is the source of water for half the state. "If the state progresses into this, they may change things around some," Sowden said.