Piedici Appointed New Planning Board Chair, Board Authorizes Attorney to Defend Twp. Against Smith Challenge to Mosque Settlement

Bernards Planning Board Member Kippy Piedici was appointed to serve as board chair at the meeting on Tuesday, June 6. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Katherine "Kippy" Piedici was chosen as the Planning Board's new chairperson on Tuesday night, following last month's resignation of three board members, including Chairman Jeffrey Plaza.

No vice-chairman has been selected yet for the board, and no new members had been appointed as of Tuesday night's meeting. Piedici's term on the Planning Board continues through the end of this year.

Plaza and two other board members, Paula Axt and Leon Harris, resigned from the board prior to a vote to approve a settlement agreement to reverse the board's December 2015 rejection of plans for a mosque in Liberty Corner Village.

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Plaza had just been reappointed as board chairman at the beginning of 2017. Plaza's term was due to run through the end of 2020.

Axt's appointment ran through the end of 2018. Harris was due to serve on the board through the end of this year.

Board authorizes attorney to represent township in lawsuit opposing mosque settlement

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, following a closed session to discuss pending litigation from resident Cody Smith against Bernards Township and the Planning Board, the board authorized its attorney Jonathan Drill to represent the township against Smith's case. Smith has opposed of the settlement with the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and the U.S. Department of Justice to facilitate the establishment of a 4,250-square-foot mosque on a little more than four acres of residential property in Liberty Corner.

On Smith's behalf, a New Jersey attorney affiliated with The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court alleging that the township violated the state Open Public Meetings Act by approving a legal settlement without disclosing the terms of the settlement and allowing public comment before the settlement was approved.

The settlement agreement was approved on May 23 by a majority of Planning Board members and the Township Committee, with some dissenting votes; Township Committeeman John Carpenter cast a no vote. The terms of the agreement were not released until the following week, on May 30, because officials said that it needed to be approved by all involved parties.


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