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Judge Denies Ramapo Polo Club's Injunction Against Ramapoughs
Breaking: The club wanted to ban all religious activity, camping and large gatherings on land the tribe has used for generations.
By Daniel Hubbard, Patch Staff | Dec 22, 2017 12:54 pm ET | Updated Dec 22, 2017 12:58 pm ET
MAHWAH, NJ — A Superior Court judge denied an injunction this month filed by the Ramapo Hunt & Polo Club Association against the Ramapough Mountain Indians.
Superior Court Judge Charles Powers denied the injunction Dec. 15. The club tried to prevent the tribe from conducting various activities on the 95 Halifax Road property. The land is located near the club.
The club wanted Powers to prevent "any religious" activity on the site and block people from staying there overnight. The club also wanted large gatherings and "activities that cause loud noises, smoke and air and water pollution" banned.
The tribe has used the property, which it calls the Sweet Water Prayer Site, for generations for various religious and various ceremonial services.
Some local residents complained that Ramapoughs and others make a lot of noise on the property and take up parking on Bridle Path Lane, Halifax Road and Polo Lake. The club wanted Powers to prevent Ramapoughs from parking on those streets.
"We are pleased to be continuing toward justice and give great thanks to Judge Powers for his wisdom and courage in this matter," Ramapough Chief Dwain Perry said in a statement.
"I think this decision is a partial victory and we look forward to continuing to represent the Ramapoughs and we look forward to full victory later this winter or spring."
Aaron Kleinbaum, executive director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, and the Ramapough's counsel, called Powers' decision "a partial victory.
"We look forward to continuing to represent the Ramapoughs and we look forward to full victory later this winter or spring," Kleinbaum said.
The matter has dragged on in court for a year.
The township issued summonses against the Ramapoughs Dec. 13, 2016 for not getting the required zoning permits and permissions before constructing three 15-foot tall tepees, several tents, several totem poles and a cooking pavillion on the property earlier that month.
The structures were erected in protest of the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey and the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Other buildings soon followed and the nation invited people to camp on the land overnight.
The town has said that those actions violated local zoning codes and require permits. The town issued 43 summonses against the Ramapoughs.
Superior Court Judge Roy F. McGeady ruled last month that the Ramapoughs violated local zoning laws and must pay $13,000 in fines, but that they can continue to use the property for religious purposes and have tents there.
Kleinbaum said his clients have appealed McGeady's mixed-ruling to the Superior Court.
"We believe we will be vindicated in our appeal," Kleinbaum said.
In a separate criminal case, Steven D. Smith, a.k.a. Owl, was found guilty in connection with acts of vandalism at the club earlier this year. Smith was found guilty of disorderly conduct for turning the lens of a surveillance camera to try and change the angle the camera was facing so acts of vandalism committed at the club would not be filmed.
Perry was charged with criminal mischief in connection with the vandalism. Surveillance footage showed Perry driving Smith to the scene, police previously said.