Chatham Couple Appeals Public Easement Decision

Lawrence and Sarah Fechtner seek to have Township Committee's decision to vacate the footpath overturned.

A Chatham Township couple has filed an appeal to have the governing body's April decision to vacate a controversial public easement overturned.

Lawrence and Sarah Fechtner filed the appeal on June 18 in state Superior Court in Morristown.

"This easement is for the right of public for use for foot travel as stated in the official deeds of record," the Fechtners wrote in a statement. "The private property is 'subject to the easement for public use, for foot passage only.' With this ordinance, the township is giving a walkway easement designated for the benefit of the public away to private property owners forever.

"This easement is a valuable public asset which would serve as a vitally needed connection to our local schools and athletic field as well as enhance the enjoyment of our beautiful town."

The Township Committee voted 3-1 in April to vacate the 700-foot long and 8-feet wide footpath between Linden Lane and Pine Street.

The Fechtners, who had collected more than 100 signatures on a petition against the ordinance, felt the township's process was tainted. The couple was frustrated to not have the opportunity to respond to retired township attorney Carl Woodward's findings on the issue.

"We believe that an appeal would enable a judge to review the ordinance impartially and make a decision based on the legal merits in a fair hearing," the Fechtners wrote in the statement. 

Resident June 30, 2014 at 04:01 PM
Lawrence, I found the whole thing originally pretty amusing and loved reading the back-and-forth, but now I'm a bit annoyed with you. As a Chatham taxpayer, it's a bit annoying that our community will have to expend public funds to address this in court. It's ironic you're appealing to others to help fund your legal escapade, but do realize there are members of this community who don't "care" about this specific issue, can see that it's gone way beyond open spaces or safe routes (and is really about "personal" issues, right?), and simply do not appreciate your course of action because of the harm it brings to us all. Can you at least spare us the legal dribble and perhaps share your true motivations? Do you really hate Bailey Brower that much? Are you just unhappy with the Driftway/Meadow Ct/Linden Ln/Pine residents, you dislike them so much because they have a "private" road and nice street and somehow feel inferior? Please, just don't say it's about walking paths, easements, or THE CHILDREN! As Mayor Sullivan said (and I went to try and look!) there is nothing there... just trees, brush, elevation changes, no lighting, no path, no hope of a path, nothing. So just tell us your true motivations. If it's walking paths for the kids, I'll expect to see wood chips through 3 Rolling Hill Dr's backyard, Jensen Ct, leading past the church to the elementary school so the kids can walk on a nice path far from cars. If it's something else, like a blind passion against those big bad homeowners on Linden and Pine, I'll understand, but please leave us out of it... seems like a case of too many people with too much money, too much time, and too many frivolous things to fight about. And nobody wants to "lose." If I could sue you for being a dope and wasting township funds, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
Path is Needed July 04, 2014 at 12:40 PM
Just because a resident doesn't "care" about the issue doesn't mean it was proper to give away taxpayer assets for nothing! The homeowner who received the property for FREE should be paying all legal fees relating to this lawsuit!
Path is Needed July 04, 2014 at 12:51 PM
I have spoken to residents who live off of Meyersville Road, in Wickham Woods & in the Highlands neighborhoods who weren't even aware that the Council gave away land owned by the Township. They were universally shocked & upset! I was always questioned as to why a homeowner who bought their property knowing that an easement adjoined the property suddenly was gifted land for nothing that would obviously greatly increase the value of their property. I don't fault the homeowner for asking but I do fault the homeowner for not paying fair value and for not guaranteeing to cover the Township's legal fees if lawsuits resulted from this giveaway. I believe that the Township should have developed the path to protect our children and if, as they claim, funds were not available for the path, then begin a fund raising drive to get enough in donations to build it. As taxpayers, we were NEVER asked if we wanted a path or if we would donate to create the path. This gift will very likely be overturned in court and the Council should resign in shame over the legal fees that they are forcing residents to pay. NEVER FORGET THIS - NEXT ELECTION, VOTE THEM OUT!
David MacNeil July 05, 2014 at 04:56 PM
Aside from the questionable legal merits of the Fechtners' case, does anyone outside of the affected neighborhood (I live on Pine Street) understand the TOTAL IMPRACTICALITY of creating a walkway on this eight-foot wide easement that is now overgrown with mature trees? There is no way this could be accomplished without trespassing on or damaging the private property of the homeowners adjacent to this easement. Even if a way could be found, the cost would be significant and the ultimate safety and utility of the path very much in doubr. As for the "shocked and upset" residents of the other neighborhoods, they seem blissfully unconcerned about the issues of cost, safety, utility and loss of privacy to my neighbors. The fact that they "weren't even aware" of this well-publicized issue just demonstrates a deplorable lack of interest in Township affairs.
David MacNeil July 05, 2014 at 04:58 PM
By the way, you other posters Man orWoman up and post your names if you want to be taken seriously!


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