Warren County freeholders kill plans for Mansfield shooting range, consider stand on PSE& G power lines

Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Express-Times

WHITE TWP. | Warren County freeholders on Wednesday halted a proposed shooting range in the Port Murray area of Mansfield Township.

Residents last month rallied to oppose the law enforcement facility in their neighborhood, contacting attorneys and environmental groups.

"At this juncture, the board of freeholders is no longer entertaining moving forward with that shooting range," freeholder Director Richard Gardner said, leading off the board's meeting.

A quiet "Yeah!" went up from the audience upon the announcement.

"I'm glad that you closed the door," Mansfield Township Committeeman Joseph Watters told freeholders.

The range had been proposed as a possible use for land on Brickyard Road that the county is considering purchasing for preservation.

The purchase is still pending, Gardner said, but "there is a great deal of homework" the county must do before a deal is settled.

The freeholders did not give a specific reason why the range was no longer being considered, but Gardner said, "The critics spoke pretty loud."

The shooting range decision came up later regarding another issue: a proposed 500-kilovolt power line through Hardwick Township.

"A shooting range amounts not to a hill of beans, but a hill of atoms in comparison" to the line proposed by Public Service Electric & Gas Co., said Democratic freeholder candidate Adam Fitting.

Fellow Democratic freeholder candidate Tod Theise and residents urged the county to take a stand against the PSE& G proposal, which is before the state Board of Public Utilities and National Park Service for review.

The New Jersey Highlands Council has approved the power line project.

Freeholders did not take an official stance. Gardner said he would like to see more information but that the board will "likely make a resolution in conjunction with Hardwick" opposing the lines.

The higher-capacity line -- which follows the path of an existing 230-kilovolt line -- will allow more power to be transferred from a switching station near Berwick, Pa., to another station in Roseland, N.J., according to PSE& G.

The route enters New Jersey through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Hardwick Township before continuing on to Sussex County.

Theise said the lines are "not a partisan issue."

"This is really a matter of life and death for the residents of Warren County," he said. "Let's work together to stop this."

Reporter Stephen J. Novak can be reached at 610-258-7171, ext. 3542, or by e-mail at snovak@express-times.com.

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