In a Feb. 14 letter between Mayor James Barberio and Township Attorney John Inglesino, it appears Town Hall has come up with a way to link the with the plight of Lake Hiawatha flood survivors.
The Township Council is expected to consider on Tuesday a and replace it with a Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
That ordinance was discussed in Inglesino's missive, which was hand-delivered to the mayor hours before the .
In the letter, the lawyer said he believes the township legally can use Open Space Trust Fund monies to pay debt service on bonds created for the purpose of funding the so-called Fields of Dreams proposal. The project, using a conservative estimate, is expected to cost approximately $4.5 million.
According to Inglesino, the law also permits the municipality to expand its open space powers via ordinance.
The attorney told the mayor that in his legal opinion, Parsippany's government has done all that is necessary under law to use the open space money for the fields.
From Inglesino's letter:
It is also our view that the record can and should be strengthened in this regard. Therefore, we advise the township to hold a public hearing and adopt an ordinance specifically expanding the permissible uses listed in its Open Space Ordinance to include all of the statutorily permitted purposes [that] were recently expanded to include Blue Acres projects which may also be included in such ordinance. This would permit the township to use open space funds to acquire properties that have been "substantially damaged" by natural disasters such as floods.
's unprecedented flood have been raised as an issue in the ongoing Fields of Dreams debate. Many residents have said open space money should be used to help people who cannot return home rather than on turf fields, which some consider comparably trivial.
Other residents at all, insisting that the Open Space Trust Fund was intended to preserve natural spaces. Still others worry about .
There is an additional hurdle the turf proposal must clear: In order for the township to use open space funds for any project, the municipality under law must have an ownership interest in it. In the case of the fields at and , the would have to cede 51 percent of its ownership of the fields to the township. This agreement, once signed, is irrevocable.
Before the school board can proceed with consideration of the idea, it first must get the approval of the state Department of Education. Even if such approval is granted, of giving the municipality majority ownership of school fields.