NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — By a vote of 3-1, the North Caldwell Borough Council has agreed to include an Open Space Referendum on the November ballot. The vote allows North Caldwell citizens to have a say in whether to sell off five acres of the Walker Pond property, which is worth an estimated $2.5 million, or to leave it as open space with monies made available by the Open Space Trust Fund.
According to the goerning body, any funds used for the open space would be paid back by North Caldwell taxpayers. After voting to put the Open Space Referendum on the ballot this fall, all council members verbally agreed to follow voter sentiment on this issue.
Councilman John Chaia agreed with Mayor Joseph Alessi that this was too important an issue not to get the input of the borough’s citizens.
“The Open Space Referendum gives people a choice as to whether to pay the tax or not,” said Chaia, who recalled the beauty the pond when he was growing up.
In the event that 15-year loan is taken out for this project, it is estimated that the tax rate per household would increase approximately $101. Chaia noted that a 17-acre park would offer many benefits, but that citizens must have a say in whether it is worth the higher tax rate.
Councilman Joshua Raymond, who also felt it was “paramount for residents to vote on this issue,” raised concern that some might vote against the tax increase, but would still not want development on this property.
He added that the five lots that would be sold are close in proximity to the pond and catch basin. According to Raymond, maintaining this site as open space could also be done through a bond ordinance, which he believes the borough should consider as an option.
Council President Cynthia Santomauro expressed concern about dredging the pond properly and was echoed by Anthony Floria-Callori, who is running for borough council in November. In a blog post he put out with running mate Ted Roth prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, he wrote that the borough should ensure that dredging the pond will not cause harmful chemicals to become airborne or allow unhealthy algae buildup in the pond.
To read more from this meeting, where many residents addressed concern about water drainage issues, click HERE. The next North Caldwell Borough Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.