Franklin Committee Elects New Chair and Tackles Open Space Challenges

The Franklin Open Space Advisory Committee recently convened to address a series of concerns related to local open space management, financial oversight, and community engagement. Notably, the committee underwent a reorganization, resulting in the election of new officers. Robert Puskus has been appointed as the chair, alongside an individual named Ary as the vice chair, and Bill Connell as the secretary.

A significant portion of the meeting focused on the maintenance and financial stability of the Meadows Foundation’s properties. The committee deliberated on the legality and practicality of using open space trust funds to assist with expenses, including bills for propane, oil, and a push mower necessary for the upkeep of the properties. However, the committee agreed that they could legally utilize the funds for maintenance-related costs, with the caveat that township council approval would be necessary.

Further complicating matters for the Meadows Foundation was a request by the committee to review the organization’s financial records. Questions arose regarding the level of rent being charged, signaling concerns over financial transparency and management. To enhance the foundation’s visibility and potentially increase funding, the committee considered promoting the organization through local newspaper advertisements.

Another topic of discussion was the updated Pathways and Trails Plan. The committee reviewed detailed maps and proposed connections, emphasizing the importance of the plan being “shovel-ready” to be competitive for grant applications. Members were encouraged to provide feedback on the proposed trails’ locations and safety considerations. The plan was lauded for its thoroughness, with the committee expressing pride in its potential to secure future project funding.

The committee also addressed logistics for the upcoming scoping hearing for a “done diversion,” focusing on the correct placement of signage for public awareness. The hearing was scheduled for April 6 at 6 p.m., and the committee discussed the necessary steps to meet the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) requirements, including the publication of notices and the submission of a transcript post-hearing.

The meeting touched on a variety of other community concerns. A community member named Tony Gord raised issues regarding the local hunting program on County Route 518, which included reports of unauthorized hunting, baiting, and improper disposal of materials. Gord provided constructive feedback, suggesting improvements such as better signage, clearer communication, and enhanced enforcement measures.

Problems with Leewood’s responsiveness in fulfilling their responsibilities were highlighted, with the committee expressing frustration over shade tree planting delays and the removal of trees. A community member voiced concerns about the condition of train tracks near residential areas and the associated flooding history. This discussion dovetailed with updates on the ongoing redevelopment issues with Leewood.

The committee also showed appreciation for the work of a consultant, whose contributions reportedly extended beyond formal reports. The necessity of proper signage on township property was underscored due to the challenges of non-linear property boundaries.

In addition to project updates, the committee announced upcoming community events, including a stream cleanup and a film screening on regenerative agriculture. The meeting concluded with a decision to enter into an executive session.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Phillip Kramer
Open Space Commission Officials:
Robert Vornlocker (Township Manager), Kathleen Moody (Chief Financial Officer), Mark Healey (Township Planner), Beau Byrtus (Director of Recreation), Dr. Michael Smith (Board of Education), Tara Kenyon (Land Preservation and Management Consultant), Ed Potosnak (Councilmember), Robert Puskas (Agricultural Adv. Committee Chair), Arnold Schmidt (Environmental Commission Regular Member), Theodore Chase (Planning Board Regular Member), Robert LaCorte (Historic Pres. Adv. Commission Regular Member), Mary Lauko (Shade Tree Commission Regular Member), John Moon (Recreation Advisory Council Regular Member), William Connell, Deana Luchs, Melba Battin, Charles Martin, David Triggs.

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