Published in the Asbury
Park Press 8/15/03
By ERIK LARSEN
LACEY -- The Township Committee last night voted 3 to 1 to give Ocean County a 12-foot-wide easement on the old Central Railroad of New Jersey right of way for a planned 14-mile rail trail from South Toms River to Barnegat.
The committee acted after it tabled to table a controversial ordinance that would have transferred the 19th century rail bed for $96,600 in debt relief from the county. The rail bed tract ranges in width from 50 to 100 feet. The rail-trail plan competed with a proposal by Republican leaders to build a road. The fight had divided the township for three years.
The committee can opt to build the road later. It retained enough of the right of way's width to construct a road.
In effect, the ordinance allows the county
to proceed with its rail-trail plans while postponing the debate for another
Without the easement, the county would not be able to legally access the trail.
Democratic Township Committeeman Robert G. Bischoff voted with Republican Mayor Brian A. Reid and Republican Committeeman John C. Parker to convey the 12-foot easement. Previously, Bischoff had argued against giving just 12 feet. He did not explain his change of mind.
Democratic Committeewoman Helen Dela Cruz was the lone dissenter on the five-member panel; Republican Louis A. Amato did not attend the meeting.
The committee met for the second time in three weeks in the multipurpose room of the Lacey Township Middle School on Denton Avenue.
While the room was filled with hundreds of residents, it did not match the estimated 500 to 600 people who attended the July 31 meeting when the committee introduced an ordinance to convey the entire right of way, not just 12 feet. That was the ordinance the committee tabled.
Ocean County Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr. has said that the Board of Freeholders will accept the township's 12-foot easement.
The ordinance also allows for so-called "trail heads," or replicas of old train stations that would be used as public lavatories at Hebrew Park, in the Lanoka Harbor section of the township.
Erik Larsen: (609) 978-4582 or [email protected]
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