The Verona Town Council voted unanimously on Monday night to buy two large lots to preserve them largely as open space. While the Council again pushed off any decision on a letter of support for the proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 30 Pompton Avenue until its next meeting, residents opposed to the dispensary again dominated the public comment portion of the meeting, criticizing Council members and drawing criticism in return.
Mayor Jack McEvoy opened the meeting with a moment of silence for Rep. John L. Lewis (D-GA5), who passed away on July 17. Verona is flying the flags in the center of town at half-mast to honor the civil rights leader.
Before the Council voted on the $12.8 million bond ordinance to buy the two lots, one at the end of Commerce Court that has been used as the town leaf dump and the other between the Afterglow neighborhood and Eagle Rock Reservation, Township Manager Matthew Cavallo specified that the town would be taking no action now on subdividing a small part of the Commerce Court lot for nine single-family home lots. Cavallo said that that could happen later this fall and that any development would go through full Planning Board review. A lot sale would be one way to reduce the cost of the purchase to Verona taxpayers, but Verona also intends to apply to Essex County and state government for Open Space Trust Fund support. The 25 acres being acquired is more than half of the unoccupied privately-owned land in Verona.
During public comments on the ordinance, the Council reviewed how it arrived at a purchase price for the lots, where the seller had been planning to build 375 housing units. Council members said that while the purchase is expensive, high-density development could have forced Verona to