Vernon presented with two open space perspectives

Vernon. The township council will decide between its current township planner, J. Caldwell & Associates, and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey for the job of updating its open space plan.

| 18 Feb 2021 | 12:45

The Vernon Township Council will decide between contracting with the current township planner, J. Caldwell & Associates, and the Land Conservancy of New Jersey to update its Open Space Plan.

Allison Kopsco of J. Caldwell said she has worked on open space projects in Raritan Township. The process will take more than six months, examine the township’s recreation needs, and connect its various open spaces, she said.

The first month would involve meeting with township committees and boards to establish goals. Between the four- and five-month mark, the open space and preliminary action plans will be drafted. Five and six months into the process, the public will participate. After that, the plan would be finalized.

Barbara Davis, the conservancy’s vice president of programs, touted her organization’s experience. She has been with the conservancy for 22 years and written 164 land conservation plans, 90 of which have been recreation and open space plans.

The conservancy helped develop the township’s Open Space Plan in 2003 and 2010 update. With the conservancy’s help, Davis said, Vernon has received three Green Acres grants of up to $1.4 million, and three Sussex County grants for about $250,000. “We’ve worked with 10 counties and most recently completed open space and recreation plans in Lafayette and Wantage,” she said.

Davis agreed with Kopsco’s timeline but said she would have two public sessions, one before the township council and another before the land use board. “We’re very well-qualified to do this work,” Davis said. “We approached the town and reminded them they need to update their plan.”

Council members Andrew Pitsker and Toni Cilli asked about grants. Kopsco said J. Caldwell will identify different grants and occasionally fill out applications. She said the company has done a couple of smaller grants.

Davis said the conservancy will write the grants for the town, which will review them for accuracy before the conservancy submits them. She said the conservancy has a 100% success rate for Green Acres grants and about 95-100% success rate for Sussex County grants. “This is what we do, open space and farmland preservation,” she said. “We’re very good at our job because we’re very mission-driven.”