Press Release: Town Meeting 1

Sent out to local newspapers, radio stations and television stations…

Contacts: Committee Co-Chairs Antoinette Rinehart and Katherine Watt.


North Plainfield Citizens for Community Rights kicks off a series of Town Meetings on Monday, August 13, 2007, at 7 p.m. at the Vermeule Community Center at 614 Greenbrook Road. Subsequent Town Meetings will be held Thursday, September 20 and Monday, October 29, same time, same location. NP Citizens for Community Rights is a nonpartisan group of North Plainfield residents intent on empowering free and equal citizens to solve local problems through open public discussion and use of our democratic right to self-governance.

The group first came together around opposition to the destruction of the historic, forested Villa Maria site at Interhaven Avenue and Grove Street, by real estate developer Robert McNerney, CEO and sole shareholder of Watchung Hills at North Plainfield, LLC, a Glen Rock NJ-based condominium developer intending to build 225 luxury condominiums on the site. The condo development was the subject of more than five years of controversial hearings at both the Borough Council and Planning Board, as citizens realized that local public officials were completely ignoring resident objections to the project based on deforestation, historic destruction, increased flood risk, air and water pollution, traffic impacts and other major burdens the condo development will place on residents for decades to come.

Currently, the legality of the age-restricted condominium ordinance “adopted” by the Borough Council in late 2005, under which the Planning Board approved the project application in late July 2007, is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit – Campbell v. Borough of North Plainfield, in Somerset County Superior Court.

Realizing that the problem was not about land use anymore, but about outside corporate interests controlling local mechanisms for democratic self-governance, members of the group reached out to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund , a Pennsylvania legal services organization. Over the past several years, CELDF has successfully supported more than 100 rural, conservative Pennsylvania communities that have adopted ordinances to restrain the power of corporations to destroy local communities, economies and ecosystems. So, spurred by the unresponsive Borough Council and Planning Board, NP Citizens for Community Rights hosted a Democracy School in July, to educate people about the historic rise of corporate power and how communities are protecting themselves by reclaiming and strengthening the basic tools of democratic self-governance.

The group then drafted a Corporate Land Development and Local Self-Government Ordinance to prohibit corporate land development within the Borough and strip corporations of the purported Constitutional privileges bestowed on them by courts treating them as legal “persons.” We are now gathering petition signatures to place the ordinance on the November ballot under the initiative provisions of the Faulkner Act.

All town residents are invited to the first Town Meeting on Monday, August 13, 2007, at 7 p.m. at the Vermeule Community Center at 614 Greenbrook Road, to voice their concerns about local problems and learn more about citizen tools for change – including background information on corporate power, the initiative and referendum process, the charter change process, citizen prosecution of ordinance violations (when local official fail to enforce ordinances) and other practical strategies for reclaiming local power.

Organized together, we can make things better.


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