Dear Bernards Township Residents:
(A foreword to TapIntoBaskingridge.com: Thank you for being a responsible source of information to empower people, not diminish them.)
As Mayor of Bernards Township, I am writing to address the negative press and letters related to the recent denial of a land use application. I have lived in Bernards Township for over 15 years and I proudly stand by my statement that we are a warm and inclusive community. I ask the residents of our town to stand proud and united against the prejudice of some media reports that seek to divide us.
Some reporters purport to denounce prejudice and yet it is the very thing they perpetuate. Prejudice, “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed . . . without knowledge, thought, or reason,” has been exhibited in recent negative media reports against our community. (Dictionary.com. 2016. Web.) Reporters who disparaged the Planning Board did not attend the hearings or review the Planning Board record, yet they concluded that the Planning Board members were motivated by religious discrimination. (e.g., “Warm Town Turns Cold for Mosque.” Star Ledger 26 Mar. 2016: 6. Print; Stamato, Linda. “Reconsider the Mosque Denial in Bernards Township.” The Bernardsville News, 24 March 2016: 6. Print.) These same reporters imputed allegations about a few residents to innocent Planning Board members and to the entire community of Bernards Township.
The Star Ledger referred to Bernards Township as the “New Jersey suburb that made itself infamous for bigotry.” When contacted by a Star Ledger reporter prior to the editorial, I urged her to review the Planning Board record before drawing conclusions. The reporter asked what the “record” was, and apparently the Star Ledger decided it was irrelevant to their uninformed opinion.
Contrast these few rash opinions with The Bernardsville News opinion following the Planning Board decision. Local reporter Jake Perry attended every hearing on the application but one, and his newspaper, The Bernardsville News, opined as follows:
“From our perspective, the [Planning] board exhibited extraordinary patience and dedication by listening to hours and hours of testimony, often involving relatively mundane site plan details on matters such as drainage and water runoff, light illumination and the size of parking stalls. While some members of the community may have silently harbored personal objections over the proposal for religious reasons, we are confident that the board itself made the decision based on facts and legitimate zoning concerns about the construction project, not due to intolerance or bigotry. This application was flawed on numerous fronts. We agree with those who argued that the applicant was attempting to shoe-horn an inappropriately sized project onto this residential property. The proposed buffering and screening were inadequate. Parking and drainage plans were questionable. Serious traffic and fire safety issueswere also raised during the lengthy hearings. Many experts had legitimate concerns about these issues. Leaders of the ISBR should have realized this early on and abandoned or significantly downsized the project months, if not years ago, and saved all concerned thousands of dollars.” (“Editorial: Mosque decision.” The Bernardsville News, 24 December 2015. n.pag. Web.)
The decision of the Planning Board must not be tried through media reports, especially biased reports that do not consider the full Planning Board record or the conduct of our upstanding Planning Board members. I am confident that the Planning Board members each made their decision without regard to religious considerations. I am also confident they would have made the same decision regarding any proposed use given the same problems.
It is my honor and privilege to serve as Mayor of BernardsTownship. I ask the residents to stand together against all prejudice, including that promoted by recent negative media reports against our community.