FAIR HAVEN: PARK OPENS ON OLD HOUSE SITE

fair haven williams albert robards park Local officials lined the shoreline of the Navesink River for the park opening. Below, the house that formerly stood on the site, as seen in 2009. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

fh-williams-backMore than a decade after it began, an effort to turn prime riverfront property in Fair Haven into a park ended with a ribbon-cutting Tuesday evening.

Dubbed “Williams, Albert and Robards Park” for the successive generations of the family that lived there, the site at the northern end of Denormandie Avenue will now serve as a place for “contemplation,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli told several dozen onlookers at a brief ceremony.

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LUCARELLI NAMED FAIR HAVEN MAYOR

With his son Enzo holding the Bible and borough Attorney Sal Alfieri officiating, Ben Lucarelli recites the oath of office as mayor Monday night. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Ben Lucarelli became Fair Haven’s new mayor Monday night on a quick and unanimous vote by his colleagues on the borough council.

He was immediately sworn into office to succeed former Mayor Mike Halfacre, who resigned in January to take a job in the Christie Administration as head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control .

Uncertainty remained, however, about just when Lucarelli’s mayoralty ends.

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WOMAN HAS A BONE TO PICK OVER DOG LAW

delynn-mehrlanderDelynn Mehrlander with Henry, the yellow lab pup she got after the death of her last dog. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

When Little Silver resident Delynn Mehrlander got a notice in the mail earlier this year reminding her to re-license her dog, Jode, she tossed it away.

Jode, a 10-year-old yellow lab, had been put down with cancer five months earlier, so there was no dog to license, she reasoned.

About a month ago came a summons, telling her she’d violated the local animal licensing law.

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OFFICIAL’S OWN TREE REMOVAL PERMIT AXED

lilleston-homeThe home of Elizabeth Lilleston, Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer. Below, her husband, Richard, looks at one of two trees that were to be removed from their Woodland Drive property. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

lilleston-home1

A permit issued by Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer allowing her to remove two trees from her own property has been yanked by the mayor following an outcry from neighbors.

Amid complaints of questionable ethics, and after  an inquiry by redbankgreen Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Mike Halfacre rescinded the permit that tree-law enforcer Elizabeth Lilleston issued on her Woodland Drive home, which she and her husband sold to a developer earlier this month.

“That can’t happen,” Halfacre said within minutes of hearing about the permit. “Everyone has to know it can’t happen that way.”

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FAIR HAVEN: ARBORCIDE AT NATURAL AREA

fh-nature-areaNature enthusiasts want the borough to fund restoration of a mistakenly cleared-out area at the Fair Haven Fields Natural Area. Below, the affected site. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

fh-nature-area1

Several years of toil by nature-loving volunteers was undone in Fair Haven last month when borough employees mistakenly destroyed some 150 baby trees, officials said Monday.

Sometime last month, public works employees, while doing routine maintenance at the Fair Haven Fields Natural Area, errantly bushwhacked about 150 small trees planted to protect the area from Asian Bittersweet vines, an invasive species that had destroyed at least 20 percent of the area’s plant life, said volunteer Richard Magovern.

Now, what was once a well-fortified thicket of small trees is an open patch of green, a visible chink in the armor used to fight off an invasive adversary.

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PROSECUTOR: BAN TWO FIREFIGHTERS

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The prosecutor in the case of three firefighters convicted of charges in a firehouse scuffle last year wants at least two of them barred from their line officer positions within the department.

“The state believes they should not be allowed back into their positions,” said Little Silver Prosecutor Mike Halfacre, who is also the mayor of neighboring Fair Haven. “Forfeiture (of their positions) in my eyes, and in the state’s eyes, is automatic.”

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NATIONAL NIGHT OUT: FAIR HAVEN

fh-nno3fh-nno1What’s better: petting a drug-sniffing dog, shaking hands with McGruff the Crime Dog or sinking Mayor Mike Halfacre in the dunk tank?

It was a close call at Tuesday night’s National Night Out observance in Fair Haven, as kids lined up for all of the above — and the line to soak Halfacre was pretty long. More pics below. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

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SEA BRIGHT FIREFIGHTERS GUILTY IN SCUFFLE

sbfd-engineA Sea Bright Fire Department engine truck on display at the department’s wet-down celebration, shortly before three firefighters got into a scuffle that led to charges. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Two brothers accused of assaulting a fellow volunteer firefighter last year were found guilty of all related charges Thursday, according to court documents obtained by redbankgreen.

But their act of violence upon Justin Hughes at a wet-down celebration October 9 wasn’t unprovoked, the judge said. Hughes was also found guilty of harassment and disorderly conduct.

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OH DEER, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE…

dsc_4059A deer crosses a street in Shrewsbury at dusk last year. Fair Haven officials say they’re watching Shrewsbury’s effort to curtail its deer population. (Photo by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Last year they were eating tree seedlings out of Stephen Knowlton’s yard on Church Street in Fair Haven. This year he’s having a hard time keeping a patch of lilies.

Elizabeth Lilleston, Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer and a resident of Woodland Drive, says she sees them daily roaming the street.

And Mayor Mike Halfacre, who also lives on Church, snapped a picture on his cell phone last week of one chomping on his neighbor’s grass.

If Fair Haven’s deer population isn’t controlled, Knowlton warned, “they’re going to be sleeping on our front lawns.”

Like towns across New Jersey, the borough is now facing a tricky problem: an apparent rise in deer wandering into the residential areas of town, and few options to thin the herds.

“I don’t know what we can do short of a hunt,” Halfacre said.

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FAIR HAVEN TREE LAW PUT IN THE SHADE

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

bob-marcheseIn Fair Haven’s great tree debate, the borough council has gone back and forth for months, trying to find middle ground on revisions that would satisfy advocates of both property rights and environmental concerns.

Now, the shade tree commission has weighed with a set of proposed revisions to the ordinance. The planning board has chimed in, too, recommending the  law be uprooted altogether and re-seeded with a fresh perspective.

Where does a governing body go from here? Back to the negotiating table, apparently.

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FAIR HAVEN SIGN WHACKED… AGAIN

fh-sign-missingVandals have apparently hit the Welcome to Fair Haven again. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just a couple months after it was replaced, Fair Haven’s welcome sign on River Road was again a target of vandalism.

This time, though, somebody ripped the whole thing off its tall white stanchions, leaving bent metal and a hard-to-miss hole where the borough’s seal, the steamship Albertina, had stood as the official greeter to the borough.

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PAPERWORK PUTS FAIR HAVEN PLANS ON HOLD

rvr-rd-westThe River Road west streetscape is holding up a line of other projects in the borough. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Mike Halfacre, Fair Haven’s mayor, one-time Congressional hopeful and triathlete may add another exploit to his list: author.

No, not really. But, more than a year after pulling in big bucks – under a stimulus program whose existence he opposed – from the federal government for a major facelift to the west side of River Road, Halfacre says he’s got plenty of material for one.

“I will write a book someday about shovel-ready projects,” he said.

Perhaps it can be a Bildungsroman on working with the federal government, one that Halfacre said has produced small mountains of paperwork – and a backlog of other projects “all being held up by trying to do River Road west.”

“I cannot tell you how frustrating it is,” Halfacre said. “It’s a mess. I mean, even our president laughed at the shovel-ready projects a couple weeks ago.”

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HALL RESTORATION GETS A BIG BOOST

bicentennial-hallA cash infusion means Bicentennial Hall should be ready for a 2012 opening. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Restoration work on Fair Haven’s Bicentennial Hall, a nationally recognized historic landmark, got an $80,000 boost Monday.

A donation by the borough’s historical society elevates the project from piecemeal to shovel-ready, town officials said.

“It has been advancing in fits and spurts over the years, and now we have a plan in place,” said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

The donation means the building will open to the public in time for Fair Haven’s bicentennial celebration next year.

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FAIR HAVEN’S PETERS QUESTIONS WATER TIPS

fh-sprinklerA sprinkler system outside a River Road home in Fair Haven. New Jersey American Water has asked residents to consider voluntary water restrictions in anticipation of a hot, dry summer. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Following the brief blast of heat and dry weather in the area nearly two weeks ago, and in preparation for more of it this summer, New Jersey American Water sent a letter to local mayors suggesting residents consider voluntary water restrictions at home.

On its face, it’s a move by the water company to help prevent what happened last year, and all of a sudden: a mandatory restriction that confounded locals at the height of a holiday weekend.

But at least one Fair Haven official is calling the water company out, and questions whether it has made the necessary improvements to its treatment and distribution system to handle growing demand in Monmouth County.

“We’re starting pretty early in the year to be asking to (reduce) our consumption,” Council President Jon Peters said. “We were told last year this was anomalous. We’re going to be watching very closely.”

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DEFENSE SAYS COMMENTS LED TO SBFD FIGHT

sb-truckThursday’s docket, below, for the case of three Sea Bright firefighters involved in a fight at the borough firehouse last year. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

sbfd-docketTwo Sea Bright firefighters accused of roughing up a fellow volunteer last year were provoked by insults hurled by the victim, who said one of the assailants should have been killed in Iraq, their defense attorney said Thursday.

In a drawn-out day of testimony at Little Silver municipal court, the two sides offered conflicting accounts of what started the scuffle, which sent 28-year-old firefighter Justin Hughes to the hospital.

And although it was the second day of testimony, this time a marathon five hours’ worth continued from May 5, the presiding judge reserved decision on the case.

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WANTED: RED LIGHT CAMERA IN FAIR HAVEN

fh-red-lightFair Haven’s council is looking to add a red-light camera at the intersection of River and Fair Haven roads. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A busy River Road intersection in Fair Haven may get a red-light camera installed to catch reckless drivers.

The borough is seeking state approval for the installation of the camera at Fair Haven Road under a pilot program aimed at making roads safer, Mayor Mike Halfacre said.

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IT’S LIGHTS OUT ON RIVER ROAD, EVENTUALLY

river-road-lightsOlder lights on River Road in Fair Haven will come down on an as-needed basis. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

River Road in Fair Haven is lit up like a runway now that new streetlights have been installed on both sides of the thoroughfare.

You may have noticed, as well, that still stationed on the stretch through downtown are the old lights, casting pallid halogen beams down over the new, old-look fixtures.

Those aren’t coming down any time soon, although they will be shut off, making for a uniform glow down the renovated streetscape of the busy road, officials say.

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TREE LAW SPLITS FAIR HAVEN COUNCIL

tree-chopWorkers cut down a tree in front of a Third Street home in Fair Haven Monday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Months of discussion and a handful of proposed revisions to Fair Haven’s tree preservation ordinance still haven’t gotten the six-member council in agreement on just what to do with the contentious law.

Half want to keep it as is. The other half, in the name of preserving property rights, want it updated.

When the latest would-be updates, proposed by Councilman Bob Marchese, came up for an introduction vote Monday night, the motion passed with a tie-breaking ‘yes’ by Mayor Mike Halfacre.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll will go into effect when a final vote comes.

“I will tell you gentlemen, if this same ordinance comes before me again, on a 3-3 tie I will vote no,” Halfacre said.

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DISBAND ZONING BOARD, COUNCILMAN SAYS

b-lucarelliBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven Councilman Ben Lucarelli (right) has been in the construction and real estate business more than 20 years, and in that time has appeared before countless zoning board all over the state.

None has treated applicants as badly as Fair Haven’s, he said.

So after attending last week’s zoning meeting, and being completely appalled by its members’ actions, Lucarelli has made a bold proposal: disband the board and fold its duties into the planning board’s authority.

“I was appalled at the arrogant, condescending, mean-spirited nature of the zoning board,” he said. “This was just a very bad example of how the residents of Fair Haven are being treated.”

And nobody on the council, which at least once before tried to disband the nine-member board, disagreed.

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FIREHOUSE SCUFFLE CAUGHT ON TAPE

Video of the October 9 firetruck wetdown in Sea Bright that preceded the alleged assault of a firefighter by two others.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A dramatic seven-minute video was the centerpiece of opening day in court as two Sea Bright volunteer firefighters went on trial Thursday for an alleged assault on a third.

Courtroom onlookers also heard testimony from two witnesses – one of them a Monmouth Beach cop – who filled in dialogue on the silent video and gave blow-by-blow accounts of the fight that followed a wet-down celebration for a new firetruck last October 9.

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FAIR HAVEN MAY TRIM TREE LAW

fh-treesHance Road in Fair Haven. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Councilman Bob Marchese’s got his axe ready, and it looks like changes to Fair Haven’s tree ordinance are imminent.

Marchese is proposing tweaks to the borough’s tree law, which he says infringes upon property owners’ rights.

“I believe our tree ordinance is subject to a constitutional attack, quite honestly,” he said. “I want to get this moving.”

It got moving Monday night, and the revised ordinance is expected to be introduced for a vote next month.

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HATS THROWN INTO AND HELD FROM RACES

castlemanLittle Silver Mayor Suzanne Castleman is calling it quits. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for November’s elections, and in the sleepy towns of Rumson, Little Silver and Fair Haven, where Republicans dominate and election outcomes are all but foregone conclusions, the big news is who’s not running for re-election.

Here’s a rundown of who’s in and who’s out in those towns.

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FAIR HAVEN PUTS QUACKING TO REST

duck-interviewA News 12 reporter interviews Nikki Vuille prior to the Fair Haven council’s vote on her rquest to keep her ducks. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The controversial flock of ducks of South Woodland Drive will get to stay in Fair Haven, the council decided Monday night.

After a heaping of media coverage and a tense meeting full of complaints by neighbors last month, the decision came down in a much more subdued fashion, with no public input except for one woman advocating to let the family keep the ducks in their backyard.

“So, at this point, it looks like the ducks are here,” Mayor Mike Halfacre said, “with conditions.”

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