County won't postpone Lacey rail talks

Published in the Asbury Park Press 4/24/03

LACEY -- The Planning Board will have to address its concerns about Ocean County's rail trail to the Township Committee and not the Board of Freeholders, the freeholder director said yesterday.

Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr. said he was surprised by a letter he had received from the Lacey Planning Board asking him to postpone negotiations with the Township Committee, to sell or donate the township's three-mile stretch of rail bed from the Central Railroad of New Jersey right of way.

"Essentially, the letter from the Planning Board asks the county to defer any action until the Planning Board can review a traffic study," Bartlett said.

On Feb. 27, the committee had voted 3-to-2 to send Mayor Brian A. Reid and Committeewoman Helen Dela Cruz to discuss the matter with the freeholders.

But on the rail trail issue, the Township Committee and Planning Board do not agree.  After the committee voted, the Planning Board decided to send a letter asking the freeholders to delay negotiations until the Planning Board's traffic engineer could determine whether a new road over the railbed would relieve traffic congestion on Route 9.

"The request is properly directed to the Township Committee as the Planning Board advises the Township Committee, and really this issue is in the hands of the Township Committee," Bartlett said.

Reid and Committeeman John C. Parker, both Republicans, had wanted to build a road over the right of way to relieve congestion on Route 9 and open an area of town to development.

Parker, who occupies a seat on the Planning Board and was behind the letter sent to the freeholders, conceded it was a long shot.

"You know me," Parker said. "I'll fight with the tools I have. If I lose, I lose. When traffic is backed up for miles on Route 9, I'm going to say I told you so."

The dispute has been the dominant issue of township politics for the last three years and has divided the Democratic and Republican municipal organizations as well as residents at large.  Two months ago Republican Committeeman Louis A. Amato sided with Democratic Committeemen Robert G. Bischoff and Dela Cruz, in support of the rail trail.

Erik Larsen: (609) 978-4582, or at [email protected]

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