Dingman zoning boils hot water in borough

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:35

    MILFORD - An ongoing zoning/water protection debate got hotter this week. Claims about threats to the borough’s water supply posed by a neighboring township’s proposed zoning change on Monday evening spawned an new argument over suggested conflicts of interest. Loaded with non-taxable park land and undevelopable wetlands, Dingman Township wants to expand its tax base by rezoning a likely commercial mecca at the intersection of U.S. Route 6 and Interstate Highway 84. Milford Borough’s water supply comes from springs fed by the Sawkill Creek watershed, beneath a portion of the area. The borough admits commercial development there is a threat, but claims that short of buying the property, they can do little to stop development until a specific project is proposed. The borough council has left the issue in the hands of Tom Hoff of the borough water authority. Vito DiBiasi, who resides near the area of the proposed zoning change in Dingman, regularly appears before the council to press them to oppose the zoning change as a threat to Milford’s water supply. DiBiasi and Borough President Matthew Osterberg repeated an exchange they’ve had several times, with Osterberg insisting that the borough cannot intervene in another municipality’s zoning decisions. Sometimes, supporters accompany DiBiasi at council meetings. On Monday, a man in the rear of the room asked if there has ever been any question of conflict of interest, since attorney John Klemeyer represents both the borough and Dingman Township. Kleymeyer replied, “If they (the council) think I have a conflict, I have a conflict. Don’t you think I’d be aware of a legal conflict after 34 years practicing law? Don’t you think I’d know?” “I was just asking,” replied Tony Grigal. “The question is inflamatory,” Klemeyer said. Several minutes later as the general discussion was concluding, Klemeyer continued his remarks. The attorney said he was “really tired,” of people pressing officials and after not getting the answers that they wanted, “attacking the personal integrity of people involved. I don’t have a dog in this fight,” he said. “Privately and publicly, I have been in the forefront of keeping our water quality up to standards,” he added. Grigal’s question, he said, was not innocent and would become stories in some newspapers. He did not name any publication. Asked if he might have given the question more weight by his lengthy response, Klemeyer said a response was needed. “It was a deliberate shot,” he said after the meeting. Grigal later insisted that his question was innocent, but also commented on the attorney’s facial reaction. Klemeyer often flushes in heated conversation and Grigal appeared pleased that the exchange had prompted a deep red coloring. The borough has been invited to submit and is preparing formal comments on the zoning plan. In unrelated business, the council approved a resolution directing enforcement of borough zoning by police and zoning officers at the Tom Quick Inn, where residents remain after a bank foreclosure. Osterberg said there was “unsafe activity going on,” at the site. “This situation is out there and everybody can see it,” he concluded.