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Year In Review: What Dominated Headlines In Mahwah

From a school shooting scare to extreme flooding and a contentious mayoral race, see a recap of Patch stories from 2011

2011 was a year marked by major issues in Mahwah that both divided and brought together township residents. Here’s a look back at the major headlines in Mahwah this year.

The Year Of The Floods

Extreme weather hitting Mahwah topped many Patch headlines this year. After recovering from the on December 26, 2010, Mahwah started the year off with snowstorms, and a lot of rain. The DPW began the year playing catch-up to clean up .  A heavy rainfall in March because of flooding, and the Mahwah Fire Department who was trapped in her car in flood waters. At least one home was after more heavy rains.

In August, Mahwah was . Over 70 township homes were flooded, and residents were without power for up to a week. After the tragedy, the community came together. A group of volunteers, led by resident Suzy Godding, , an organization that helped residents clean out their homes, held a fundraiser, and donated furniture and other items to affected families. Resident Mike Beatrice and the members of the started a that raised $26,000 for flood victims. The township started a where residents could post items they had to donate, and others could post what was lost in Irene. The Mahwah Municipal Alliance and food to the flooded families, and brought in FEMA experts to help families begin to rebuild. The DPW the week after the storm.

Before the year was out, an caught everyone off guard by weighing down on township trees that still had leaves on them, cracking branches, and taking down an amount of tree brush and debris that The DPW cleanup from that storm took weeks, and pushed Mahwah’s leaf pickup back. .

Three Mayors This Year

Mahwah experienced political turmoil in 2011 that began with the , who had served in the town’s top spot for 14 years. A few days after Martel’s death, the town council , until an election could be held in November. Planning Board member, volunteer ambulance worker and small business owner Chuck Jandris was vacated by DaPuzzo, and former Council VP John Roth was appointed President.

The political reshuffling kicked off a contentious election season, with three mayoral candidates emerging to fight for the township position. against and Mahwah . After a , Laforet , beating out the second place finisher, DaPuzzo, by over 500 votes. Laforet won only a one-year term, meant to finish out the term Martel was originally elected to serve. So, Mahwah can look forward to another mayoral election in 2012.

Jandris, who ran against , was elected to fill a full three-year term in his seat on the council.

The township’s in Martel’s honor in September.

Mahwah At A Crossroads

Perhaps the one issue that divided the citizens of Mahwah most in 2011 was the approval of plans for the Crossroads Town Center, a 750,000 square foot retail development.

Public hearings were on three proposed ordinances that would allow for the property to be rezoned to allow for retail. It was previously zoned to allow for office space developments that had yet to become realized properties. About two dozen residents attended those meetings to voice concerns about the possibility of a mall changing the character of Mahwah, and the impact that the increased traffic to the area might have on the township.

The opposition grew in March, when at which the town council voted 4-2 to approve the ordinances, allowing for the retail development. A citizen group formed the “Committee to Stop Mahwah Mall” and , as did the town’s NY neighbor the town of Suffern, which claimed that Mahwah did not take the impact the development might have on NY into consideration when approving the ordinances. Both lawsuits are still pending.

Mayor John DaPuzzo within a week of their being passed by the council. The CSMM to get a non-binding referendum on the subject put on the November ballot, a request that was denied at the March council meeting. After gathering over 2,000 signatures, the .

The council also voted to , pending the outcome of the referendum vote. However, one day before the decision was finalized, the developer, Garden Commercial, . Thanks to a new state law, the , the developer is subject to the zoning laws in place at the time of the site plan submission. In this case, those were the laws allowing for the retail development.

In October, the township’s planning board asked the superior court on the new law’s applicability to this case. Because the law has yet to be tested in New Jersey, a township official .

The developer’s site plan was . Township engineering, planning and other professionals began a review of the plans in the last few months of the year.

Garden Commercial about the development in October, saying that it wanted to start an “honest conversation” with Mahwah residents about its plans. The CSMM responded that the some of its key concerns about the development.

The non-binding referendum vote in November showed that a . The results have no impact on the development’s future proceedings.

The township’s planning board on the development in December, in preparation for a public hearing on the topic in January. A public hearing on the Crossroads will begin on January 23, 2012.

Top Cop News Includes Ramapo College Shooting Scare And A Convict Runaway

The Mahwah Police Department was busy in 2011, with several major criminal occurrences in the township throughout the year.

A string of burglaries , mostly in unoccupied homes. In March, police said a from a Rio Vista home, and two more burglaries were investigated . A Miller Rd. home was , and from the driveways of Rio Vista homes in August. Patch spoke to the Mahwah Police about .

In March, a man was arrested after . Police said the man called his ex-girlfriend claiming to have been shot on campus, and had a friend pose as the shooter, demanding money from the girl. The callers were not really on campus, and no shooting had taken place.

In April, a Mahwah man after fleeing the scene of a nearby bank robbery. He was suspected in other local back robberies at the time of his suicide, police said.

In two separate instances in and , a Mahwah Marine Moms donation box was stolen from the Mahwah Bar and Grill. Police arrested suspects in both cases, and the to the charity to make up for what was lost.

There were three major child abuse stories in the township this year – a resident was in July, another resident was accused of sexually in August, and a Mahwah man was arrested on in November.

An ongoing search for a Mahwah man who severed his ankle monitoring bracelet and fled from house arrest in September captivated Mahwah Patch readers. This article was updated to report that police had located his getaway car in Suffern, but not the runaway. Rescue squads from Mahwah and surrounding towns , without results. At the end of November, . He was found from an , police said.

In October, police arrested an 18-year-old who allegedly . According to Police Chief James Batelli, police were called to the Mahwah home because a 14-year-old girl was “unconscious and unresponsive." Also in October, when a Bloomingdale man died on I-287.

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