Following the Jackson Township Council, run by a majority team of Council President Martin Flemming and his supporters Vice President Stephen Chisholm, and Councilman Nino Borrelli, earlier denial of endorsement of Mayor Mike Reina's proposal for establishment of an Open Space Committee, the Council tonight quietly reconsidered and reintroduced the proposal without any words of opposition at all.

The establishment of an Open Space Committee was a campaign promise made by Mayor Mike Reina, in order to curb over development. Numerous residents have already come forward and offered to sit on the new committee.

Reina realized that his efforts to buy land once it landed in the hands of developers was quite difficult as developers often overpay for the value of the land, and the Township is unable to pay above the appraisal amount to buy the land.

To combat this issue, during his campaign, Reina stressed "there is only one lawsuit proof way to stop development in its tracks and that is if we can get the land before the developers do... We will form an Open Space Committee to include a representative from the Administration, Council and members of the public. The sole responsibility of the Committee will be to identify large parcels of land for acquisition BEFORE developers even know that they exist."

Reina also added "The current Jackson Township Council's insistence on buying only open space that it can pay cash for prevents us from competing against big developers. There are WAY too many missed opportunities to ever honor the spirit of the agreement that the Township made when it asked residents for an Open Space Trust Fund tax.

"Our plan will utilize our bonding authority to allow minimal upfront expenditures and maximize the nearly $2 million collected annually through the Township's open space tax.  By doing so we increase our buying power 10X-20X which will allow us to compete with developers."

Reina's Ordinance establishing the Open Space Committee is to be comprised of 9 members, to be appointed annually to a term of one year:
• one member of the Township Council, appointed by the Township Council
• one member of the Administration, appointed by the Mayor
• The Mayor or a Mayor's representative
• Six citizens of Jackson Township appointed by the Mayor

The Duties and Responsibilities of the Committee will include locating the properties and recommending them to the Township Administration for acquisition. No member of the Committee is permitted, on their own, to contact a property owner as to the potential purchase of said property without written approval of the Township's Business Administration.

At the last Council meeting, Council President Martin Flemming and his supporters Vice President Stephen Chisholm, and Councilman Nino Borrelli killed the proposal, saying that they disliked giving the mayor full authority to appoint a majority of members of the Committee.

Following the Council's rejection of his proposal, Mayor Reina released a statement saying:

"When I first proposed an Open Space Advisory Committee I did so in an effort to supplement the Council’s open space preservation efforts. Over the last two years the Council, the only part of our government authorized to spend money on open space, has done little to grow our open space inventory and it is clear to me that more effort needs to be put into identifying parcels that the Township can buy.

I proposed a Committee that would rely heavily on the true stakeholders in these efforts, Jackson Township residents who want to rein in over-development. Their efforts would be complimented by a member representing my Administration and a member representing the Council, to act as conduits to our respective parts of government.

I was inspired to see that Council President Flemming had included the ordinance authorizing the formation of the Jackson Township Open Space Committee on last night’s Council agenda and then dismayed to learn that it had been pulled at the last minute with no explanation.

Thanks to the courage of Councilwoman Jennifer Kuhn and Councilman Scott Sargent the ordinance was nonetheless subject to introduction and only then did we learn that certain Council members were concerned with the makeup of the Committee. Those Council members then defeated the motion to formally introduce the ordinance by a vote of 3-2.

In Jackson Township’s form of government, committees fall under either the purview of Administration or of Council and the membership of those committees is determined by the appropriate authority. There is not a single Committee in our Township whose membership is equally divided between Mayoral and Council appointments, nor should there be, separation of powers is what makes our form of government work.

In this case the Jackson Township Open Space Committee, an advisory Committee with no power to do anything other than make recommendations to the Administration and Council, was proposed by my office and the membership therefore subject to my appointment. I believe this to be in the best interests of Jackson Township residents since the Council already acts as its own advisory committee with regard to open space preservation and is failing the residents of our Township.

I will continue to fight for the adoption of ordinance #4-23 as currently written and I urge Council President Flemming and Councilmen Borrelli and Chisholm to stop stonewalling and let this new Committee get to work for all residents of Jackson Township."

Tonight, without mentioning any of their previous opposition, the Township Council unanimously voted on first reading to introduce the proposal.

The Council will hold a public hearing and final reading on the Ordinance at a future meeting.

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