The Carns Family tree farm has been in existence for more than 80 years, located in the sparse suburban community of Medford, New Jersey, a medium sized township with just under 25,000 residents. The 80 year old Matriarch of the family, Carolyn Carns, has spent her entire life on the farm, where she raised her five children who help operate a tree service company that their late father founded in the 1960’s. Carolyn, who now must use a wheel chair to get around her property, was recently threatened with massive fines and jail time for parking more than one commercial vehicle on the 30 acre farm, which is something that the family has been doing for decades.
In the 80 plus years that the Carns family has owned the farm, they had never received one citation for their operations, that is until David Carns had a reporter reach out to Mayor Chuck Watson to ask him why he was stiffing David on the $450 bill for the firewood he delivered to the Mayor in January of this year. David dropped off wood to the Mayor on January 18th, with the Mayor promising several times to pay David, a promise that only came true after the call was made to the Mayor from the reporter.
Last year when the Mayor was up for re-election, he helped to change an ordinance to allow for properties that were properly zoned to set up roadside farm stands, which also included the Carns ability to sell firewood.
Two weeks prior to the Mayor taking delivery of the firewood in January of this year, the Mayor requested any complaints that had been made against the farm, a request that the Carns, and many others, find suspicious.
Since the March 22nd call was made by a reporter from the Pine Barrens Tribune, the family has received 5 citations and have been the victim of what only can be seen as retaliation by Township officials.
A couple hours after the phone call was made by the reporter to the Mayor, David Carns received call with a with a very disturbing message, saying only, “You’re Fucked!”.
11 days prior to the reporter calling the Mayor, a neighbor of the Carns, Sue McBride, lodged a complaint regarding a barn on the Carns property with Medford’s zoning officer, Beth Portocalis, asking that the barn be demolished. Just a couple of days later a Zoning officer trespassed on the Carns property to take photos of the barn, which the Carns took offense to and let Portocalis know. The next day, two men showed up at the farm claiming to want to help the Carns remove the barn from the tax map, which is something that never happened, and the Carns believe, was just used as a chance to inspect their barn.
Just a couple of days later, on March 17th, the Carns received a demolition order from the Township for the historic barn. Then, on March 21st, while David was removing dead trees from a customers property, Portocalis illegally trespassed on David’s customer’s property and began screaming at David, alleging that he was cutting down trees in a wetland, while at the same time taking photos of David and his customer, who Portocalis also gave a citation to. David’s customer testified that this is the first time in his more than 20 years as a Medford resident that he has ever been cited for anything, a move that has the resident, extremely upset.
David Carns said that he and his family have been emotionally drained from the constant harassment, causing them to lose inches from their waists and hours of sleep every night. The Carns are no pushovers though, and they have been fighting back by showing up to Township council meetings and telling their compelling, and frightening, story of retaliation by Township officials.
The citizens of Medford packed the house at the April 5th Township Council meeting, with several people chastising Town officials over their treatment of the Carns family. Brian and David Carns also showed up that night to tell their story and ask some questions, yet they left even more confused and frustrated by the refusal for officials to offer any guidance, as seen in the video below.