A REGULAR WORK SESSION OF THE VILLAGE COUNCIL OF THE VILLAGE OF RIDGEWOOD HELD IN THE SYDNEY V. STOLDT, JR. COURT ROOM OF THE RIDGEWOOD VILLAGE HALL, 131 NORTH MAPLE AVENUE, RIDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY ON OCTOBER 28, 2015 AT 7:30 P.M.
CALL TO ORDER – OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT – ROLL CALL – FLAG SALUTE
Mayor Aronsohn called the meeting to order at 7:30 P.M. and read the Statement of Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act. At roll call, the following were present: Councilmembers Hauck, Knudsen, Pucciarelli, Sedon and Mayor Aronsohn. Also present were Roberta Sonenfeld, Village Manager; Heather Mailander, Village Clerk; and Matthew Rogers, Village Attorney. Mayor Aronsohn led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and asked for a moment of silence in honor of the American men and women serving in our Armed Forces, as well as those serving as first responders.
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
Before taking public comments, Mayor Aronsohn said that an email was received by the Village Council last night, which raised concerns about the resolution adopted in August, and the grant application process for the Schedler property. Mayor Aronsohn contacted Robert Abbatomarco, of Bergen County Open Space, and asked him about the grant application process. Mr. Abbatomarco characterized the grant application, which had been submitted as normal, and that the back and forth of requesting additional information is part of the grant application review process. He commended the professionalism with which Ridgewood employees have handled this issue, as well as many others in the past. The email received by the Village Council indicated that the County considered resolution #15-257 passed on August 12, 2015, to be unacceptable. Mr. Abbatomarco said this is absolutely untrue, and there is no reason for the County to comment on it.
Mayor Aronsohn asked if there were any comments or questions from the public.
Anne Loving, 342 South Irving Street, thanked Tracy Jeffery, who recently managed a property maintenance issue in her neighborhood. On another topic, Ms. Loving referred to emails from Mayor Aronsohn regarding the parking garage. The emails use the words “we” and “us”, and give the impression that they are coming from the entire Village Council even though the emails are signed by Mayor Aronsohn only. She asked for clarification, and Mayor Aronsohn said he would address any questions raised this evening at the conclusion of the public comments section.
Ms. Loving said that if these emails were from the entire Village Council she wondered why they weren’t sent from the Mayor’s Village email account. If the entire Village Council is not included, she questioned why the Mayor is implying that it is official business. Ms. Loving said that the parking garage is an official business matter, with the taxpayers already being committed for a $500,000 bond in addition to huge amounts of time being put into this project by Village staff. These emails should have come from the Mayor’s Village email account, and there must be a reason why they didn’t. Ms. Loving asked Mr. Rogers, the Village Attorney, if the private email account used by Mayor Aronsohn is subject to an OPRA request, because it appears that official business is being discussed using a private account.
Cynthia Halaby, 374 Evergreen Place, President of the Conservancy for Ridgewood Public Lands, thanked the community for their help in support of the Conservancy’s efforts to plant 5,000 bulbs last weekend. The goal is to plant 25,000 bulbs, one for each Ridgewood resident, and there have been 19,000 bulbs planted to date. Ms. Halaby announced a new project which is the lighting of the trees at Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. She introduced Bill Gilsenan, Director of the Conservancy, who would be handling the details of this project with the Village.
Bill Gilsenan, 65 North Van Dien Avenue, said that the Conservancy has concluded that Memorial Park at Van Neste Square is underutilized, due to it being dark at night. The Conservancy has received designs from a lighting consultant, and the Conservancy hopes to light the park in phases, beginning with the five trees on East Ridgewood Avenue. The Conservancy will then move internally into the park. LED lighting will be used, and it will be done in an environmentally friendly manner. Calculations with the Village Engineer conclude that less energy will be used with this plan than with the lighting used at the moment. Mr. Gilsenan said that a better proposal and drafts will be presented at the next Village Council meeting. Funding for the project will be raised privately, and when completed, the project will be turned over to the Village. He noted that Councilwoman Hauck has been involved as the liaison to the Conservancy.
Charlie Nowinski, 2 Betty Court, said he opposes the proposal at Schedler Park, due to the clear cutting of the forest, which will increase noise, air pollution, and negatively impact the quality of life in this area. The forest is a natural buffer to this six lane highway. He read from Resolution #15-257 stating that “passive space is necessary and desirable as a buffer for the reasons of safety, noise and aesthetics, both for the users of the park and surrounding neighborhood”. To clear cut five of the seven acres of trees seems to be a contradiction within this resolution.
Mr. Nowinski stated he opposes the resolution because the entrance to the parking area shown on West Saddle River Road will be a dangerous intersection, as cars will be entering and exiting the parking lot near a highway exit. The narrow and winding ramp to the Bogert Bridge also creates a dangerous hazard for cars, due to increased traffic that will result from back to back games played at the field.
Mr. Nowinski stated that he is against the resolution because neighborhood property values will decrease due to the clear cutting of the trees. He also opposes the resolution because there is no budget. When he asked for a copy of the budget he was told it hadn’t been developed, and he asked how the Village could move forward with this plan when they don’t know how much it is expected to cost. Another reason he opposes the resolution is because a public neighborhood survey was never performed and there should have been an attempt to find out what the local neighborhood wanted for the park.
Regarding the Phase One grant for the Schedler Park property, Mr. Nowinski said he is against the removal of diseased trees in the forest. Certified arborists who have walked the property have concluded that there are no obvious signs of diseased trees. Neighborhood input is necessary for the design of this park, as well as qualified, independent studies by engineers, arborists, architects, environmentalists, noise, traffic, air quality, tree and environmental experts. The neighborhood does not want the park that was shown to them on October 14, 2015, at the Public Hearing Meeting for the Open Space Trust grant.
Mr. Nowinski asked that the resolution be revised to eliminate reference to a 90-foot baseball field with multi-purpose field overlay. This field is larger than a high school soccer field, and is 17 feet from a house. He said that conceptual plans should include all parties who have an interest in this park, and he suggested that the property be left alone until an acceptable conceptual plan, with narratives, studies, and a budget is in place.
Donald Henke, 524 West Saddle River Road, read from an article in the Washington Post, dated April 5, 2015 entitled “Baseball is Struggling to Hook Kids.” The article states that kids leave the sport of baseball at a younger age than they leave basketball or football. Baseball America Magazine indicated that according to Little League statistics fewer than 10% of all youthful baseball players will ever play high school baseball. Only 6.7% of high school seniors go on to play NCAA baseball. Mr. Henke questioned who the Village Council was trying to appease with this 90-foot baseball field since it seems this field is being designed for a tiny percentage of players. He said it would not be available for more popular sports and younger players.
Mr. Henke remarked that everyone can agree that Habernickel Park is an exemplary model of a park, but it is larger, and does not contain a 90-foot baseball field; there is not a litter and pollution producing concession stand; no bleachers for spectators, and fewer than half as many parking spaces than are proposed for Schedler Park. Mr. Henke stated that he opposes the Schedler proposal in its current format.
Nancy Friedman, 526 West Saddle River Road, indicated agreement with Mr. Henke and Mr. Nowinski, and said she opposes a 90-foot baseball field on the Schedler property. There have not been adequate studies performed, and development of a field of this size only serves a small segment of the population. It seems selfish that the desires of so few would overlook the impact on an entire neighborhood. There are no studies relative to pollution, traffic, crime, and there are other places in the Village which would be more suitable to this type of development.
Andrea Mishler, 5 Betty Court, stated that she supports what has been said. She reminded everyone that this is supposed to be a green space, which is a contradiction if all of the trees are removed and replaced by a parking lot, with a field that will need constant watering, or other implications if it turns out to be a turf field. She noted that there are few sidewalks in this area. Ms. Mishler stated that much is done for children in Ridgewood, however, there are other people living in the Village that need parks for walking. She is concerned about the traffic that will exit onto West Saddle River Road, headed to Bogert Bridge, resulting in a very hazardous situation.
Judy Enner, 491 West Saddle River Road, said that she is concerned that the tree removal will result in a tremendous amount of noise from Route 17. She noted other issues such as lifestyle change and aesthetics. She commented that the plan for the parking garage is being scrutinized to ensure that it will blend well with the look of the downtown area. Ms. Enner asked that the same consideration be given to her neighborhood. She stated that having a clear view from her home to a busy highway is not her definition of living in the quaint and beautiful Village of Ridgewood.
Mike Zuckerman, 550 Bennington Terrace, thanked the Village for purchasing the Schedler property. Mr. Zuckerman said that he coached a twelve-year-old travel team for the Ridgewood Baseball and Softball Association (RBSA) this year, and he understands the need for a 90-foot baseball field. He pointed out that there are 90 foot fields located in Ridgewood; specifically, at Lower Hawes and Northwest Somerville. As a coach, he said he struggles to book 50/70 fields, and he also had trouble getting fields when he was coaching at the 40/60 level. Mr. Zuckerman pointed out that there are needs for many different sized fields in Ridgewood, and not just 90 foot fields.
Doug Kisley, 725 Howard Road, referred to an email from Robert Abbatomarco, which stated that “the Village resolution will need to be resubmitted as it refers to the public hearing having been held in April and May 2012 to receive comments”. He said that it is obvious that the Village did not receive comments in 2012, for a grant application request that is being submitted in 2015. Mr. Kisley said that this back peddling doesn’t make sense. He agreed with everything everyone has said about safety, and the need for a sound test. He works in construction in New York City, and recently hired engineers to conduct 24/7 vibration testing for a week.
Mr. Kisley said that purchasing a house is one of the biggest investments an individual will make, and the neighbors agree that property values will diminish. People in the neighborhood are not going to take this, and intend to fight to have their taxes decreased. He asked the Village Council how they would be voting if they lived in this neighborhood.
Susan Clayville, 399 Queens Court, recalled that two weeks ago, the Village Council said that the Ridgewood Varsity team would not be using this field because of the busing expenses. She asked who would be using the field. She said that neither she nor her family were on a committee or ever heard of a committee, which was planning a 90-foot baseball field at the Schedler property, and she noted her objections to this proposal. Her family does not want to have the trees cleared or to look at or hear a six lane highway. They do not want to smell the exhaust from six lanes of highway. Ms. Clayville stated that this is her primary residence, not somewhere to play ball for a few hours and leave. The people who want the 90-foot field do not live in this neighborhood, nor are they impacted by it.
Ms. Clayville stated that a group of her neighbors have garnered the help of a certified arborist, who examined the trees on the Schedler property to determine whether or not they were diseased. He found no obvious evidence of disease. He also said that the barrier or berm shown in the drawing will not be effective at blocking out the air or noise pollution of traffic at the site. She is also concerned about children running around at the edge of a six lane highway. Ms. Clayville read from an article by the National Resource Defense Council stating that far too many Americans are intimately acquainted with the symptoms of an asthma attack, which can sometimes be deadly. Air pollution from cars, factories, and power plants has been found to be major contributors to asthma attacks. Another study found that 8% of childhood asthma cases are a result of living close to major roadways. Ms. Clayville asked that the property be left as is until everyone can agree on a better plan.
Jean Cheesman, 665 Terhune Road, said she has lived at this address for fifty years, and has heard a lot from different Village Councils, who shove things that residents don’t want down their throats. Now the historic Schedler house is in jeopardy, and may well be torn down. She is tired of fifty-two years of fighting with Village Councils, who insist that the residents don’t know what is good for them. Ms. Cheesman said that residents want a nice park where neighborhood children, not children from other towns; can play. She is tired of fifty-two years of nothing.
Ray Cheesman, 665 Terhune Road, stated that the 90-foot baseball field is much too big for the Schedler property, and there isn’t much room left for anything else.
Dr. Sal Infantino, 6 Betty Court, urged the Village Council to carefully consider the proposal for Schedler Park. He pointed out that this is the last green space left in Ridgewood. It absorbs pollutants and gives back oxygen. The placement of a field in this location is not environmentally friendly, and he anticipates flooding problems in the area as well. Dr. Infantino said that the children will be put in a hazardous situation by playing on a field that is so close to the highway, and pollutants are more harmful to people when they exercise close to busy thoroughfares. From a medical point of view, putting a field in this area is completely wrong, and Dr. Infantino urged the Village Council to consultant pulmonologists about the dangers of having a field in this area.
Dr. Infantino said that leaving the field the way it is will cost nothing. The budget is strapped, and he asked why the Village Council would consider investing in something that is not right for the community.
Enid Hayflick, 430 Hawthorne Place, voiced her opposition to the Schedler proposal although she does not live in that area directly. She disagreed with the clear cutting of trees on the property for the reasons stated by other speakers. She doesn’t like the idea of a driveway on West Saddle River Road due to safety concerns. Ms. Hayflick stated that this property belongs to all of the residents of Ridgewood not just the sports community, and it should be preserved as a green space, and a park for all Ridgewood residents. She said that she would not want this development in her backyard, and she was sure Councilmembers wouldn’t want it either.
William Chan, 36 Chelsea Place, said he is against the current Schedler project. He doesn’t want to see a 90-foot baseball field at this location, the clear cutting of trees or this large parking lot. His concerns include traffic, pollution, and safety. He recommended a new plan that would save more trees
Nancy Nowinski, 2 Betty Court, stated she is against the proposal for a 90-foot baseball field and a multi-purpose field, but she is in favor of a survey to residents in the Schedler neighborhood to find out what they would like. She is in favor of expert studies in the areas of traffic, noise, and safety.
Betty Lew, 409 Queens Court, stated that she was not aware of the proposal by the Open Space Committee regarding the Schedler property in 2012 that included a 90-foot baseball field, concession stand, restrooms, and a parking lot for over 70 cars. It would appear that many of her neighbors were not aware of this plan either, nor were they given the opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas for the development of the Schedler property. It appears to her that the 2012 concept plan was addressing only one voice, which is the voice of RBSA. She is worried about the noise pollution caused by the clear cutting of trees, increased traffic and congestion on West Saddle River Road, which is the main artery for residents of this community. Ms. Lew recently learned that this field could be used by all residents of the State; however, this was unlikely because the fields in Ridgewood never have any extra availability. She wondered if this means that this field will be used from morning until night, without any break, seven days a week. She stated that the parking lot could be a rendezvous point for criminal activity due to its proximity to Route 17. Ms. Lew suggested that this proposal be replaced with a smaller, more appropriately sized park that would be more inclusive for the people living in the neighborhood.
Jim Molina, 409 Queens Court, indicated his opposition to a 90-foot baseball field, which is inappropriate and detrimental to the neighborhood. The entrance to the proposed park should be on Route 17, and not on West Saddle River Road. He asked that the Village Council not pave paradise.
Nick Whitney, 665 Kingsbridge Lane, said that he opposes the proposal at the Schedler property. He recommended doing a cost analysis relative to the property values of homes in the area before and after the park is completed. The clear cutting of the trees is a mistake because the neighborhood will be exposed to increased noise and air pollution. He does not dispute the fact that the children need another 90-foot baseball field, but the number one job of the Village Council should be the health and safety of residents in this area. Mr. Whitney asked the Village Council to reconsider this proposal.
Irene Rojao, 650 Kenwood Road, said that she opposes the development of the Schedler property. She supports her neighbors for all of the reasons expressed this evening, and she said the park would be extremely detrimental to the entire neighborhood. She doesn’t understand why RBSA or the Village would want something so big next to a highway. This property acts as a buffer to the neighborhood from Route 17. Ms. Rojao wanted to be on record as opposing this plan.
Deborah Ryen, 655 Kenwood Road, stated that she opposes the plan for the 90-foot field. She doesn’t want the trees cut down. She is concerned about additional noise, and air pollution, and she doesn’t want her quality of life to be damaged. She objects to the proposed location of the entrance to the park. She will be hesitant to allow her two young children play in the yard without supervision if the park is built. Ms. Ryen noted that traffic on West Saddle River Road becomes extremely heavy when there are traffic back-ups on Route 17. Her son recently pointed out to her that this proposal is like the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, where property is taken for someone’s financial gain. Ms. Ryen suggested that the resolution be amended so that the property can be used for a park that would be appropriate for the neighborhood.
Ruben Centeno, 379 Queens Court, said he is an RBSA parent. His son has been involved in the program for five years and loves it; however, he is opposed to the plan in its current form because of safety and pollution reasons. Recently, the neighborhood has experienced multiple rashes of crime. This plan will make it problematic for residents to access their homes, and they will be at the mercy of baseball traffic coming off of Route 17 and Racetrack Road. Mr. Centeno stated that this plan does nothing for his children, and there is a high probability that his son will never play on this field. He noted that Glen School was taken away, and the children in this neighborhood have to be bused to other schools. There are no parks for them to play in, and he is not happy about the way people from this neighborhood are being treated.
Doug Wong, 690 Howard Road, echoed the concerns expressed by his neighbors. He likes to walk in the evenings enjoying the quiet, which will be gone once the trees are removed. He reiterated the previous statements made that a 90-foot field is too large for the area, and he asked the Village Council to reconsider the resolution.
Ben Chan, 615 Kingsbridge Lane, said he has lived in this neighborhood for eighteen years, and visitors to his home always comment on what a lovely neighborhood this is. He takes great pride in the area, and removal of the trees will take away the “wow” factor. Mr. Chan hopes that the Village Council will come up with a plan that will be positive for everyone.
Anna Kipiniak, 704 Howard Road, said that she opposes the 90-foot field for the reasons previously stated. Because the neighborhood seemed so quiet and safe she purchased a home here four years ago. She would not have bought the house if this field had been there, and this will become the sentiment of potential home buyers. There will be more traffic and crime as a result of this field, and she asked the Village Council to reconsider the plan.
Sam Lew, 409 Queens Court, stated that he adamantly opposes the proposal for Schedler Park, which has absolutely no benefit for anyone living in this area. The property values will plummet, and he would never consider buying a house in this area if the field is built. He said that the Village wants to put a lot of money into something that will only benefit a few residents of the Village.
Ellie Gruber, 229 South Irving Street, referred to the previous meeting, and said that she couldn’t stay for the entire meeting because it went into the next day. She suggested that when there is something controversial on the agenda, the Village Council should devote an entire meeting to that one topic, in order to avoid making decisions at 3:00 A.M. Ms. Gruber commented that the Village of Ridgewood is not a business, but a government, with many troublesome and time consuming regulations, protections, and frustrations. A Village Manager is hired to run the Village, but not strictly as a business, and large scale decisions cannot be executed without consulting the public. Ms. Gruber stated that the plans for the Schedler property and the parking garage have been posted on line for everyone to see, and not to question as if there is nothing more to be said. This is not the way the government works, and the best decisions are made after open discussion with all parties. Ms. Gruber stated that she doesn’t recall a time when there were so many groups coming to Village Council meetings to complain and express disappointment. She pointed out that residents are desperate to be heard.
Ms. Gruber said that proposal for Schedler Park is a field, a parking lot, and a concessions stand. It is not simply a park. The application for the Bergen County Open Space grant, prepared by the Village, for money for Phase One was inaccurate in two sections. The application indicated that there were no historic structures nearby even though the Zabriskie–Schedler house is close to the trees that are slated for removal. This was eventually corrected. Another box was checked noting that the Master Plan included this field, which is inaccurate. The Open Space Committee issued a report in 2010, and another report in 2012, which were never included in the Master Plan. The 2008 CMX report was never included in the Master Plan. Ms. Gruber believes that these errors had been pointed out to the Village Council, with no effect, and she hopes the County picks up these inconsistencies.
Ms. Gruber stated that when the Schedler property was considered for purchase under Mayor Killion and Councilman Aronsohn, it was clearly noted that no public money would be spent on development of the property, including capital funds. It was also noted that no development would occur until safe passage was provided from the property to the overpass, so that children would have the opportunity to walk or ride their bikes from the west side to the east side and back. Ms. Gruber questioned why this hasn’t been mentioned over the years. East side residents are confused and upset, and so are the sports groups. She asked whether the Village Council has the right to promise another 90-foot baseball field to the RBSA without specific acceptance from the neighborhood that will be so impacted, and without acknowledging the specific provisions of the purchase of the Schedler property. She recalled that when Habernickel Park was proposed, compromises were made because of residents’ complaints, and plans were not presented without their knowledge. Ms. Gruber commented that Village children would not die if a field isn’t built this year, and they may learn a lesson in democracy.
Dan Fusco, 329 Queens Court, indicated that he opposes the Schedler plan. He said that the left field line at Schedler Field is 300 feet. The left field line is 310 feet at Fenway Park, and 318 feet at Yankee Stadium. The right field line at Schedler Field is 300 feet. The right field line is 302 at Fenway Park, and 314 feet at Yankee Stadium. Center field at Schedler Field is 350 feet. Center field at Fenway Park is 390 feet, and 408 feet at Yankee Stadium. This is what happens when you try to put a major league baseball field into a space that is too small, and this is not an appropriate use for a historical site.
Mr. Fusco referred to the site development study, which was posted on the Village website. The report indicates that the site was carefully surveyed, environmental constraints were taken into consideration, and sound and traffic studies were conducted. The Fire Department’s response to the existing house was addressed. Proposed features include a 60-foot-tall protective netting to protect cars from balls. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued a report that there are no rare plants, wildlife species, or wildlife habitat on the site. Mr. Fusco pointed out that the traffic study is meaningless because it only measured current traffic flows, and does not take into consideration that people from all over the State will have access to the field. It does not predict future traffic flow or the impact of increased traffic on accessibility to the neighborhood. The sound survey only measures current noise levels, and disregards the impact of tree removal. The Fire Department has estimated response time to the Schedler House. Mr. Fusco said that no one lives at the Schedler House, and he doubts that a baseball field will catch fire, particularly when all of the trees have been cut down. He questioned the Fire Department response time to neighborhood homes before, during, and after a game. It is great to have 60-foot netting to protect cars on the highway from balls, but is any consideration given to the lawsuits that may be filed by people in the neighborhood, when they are hit in the head with a baseball.
Mr. Fusco commented that there will be no access to the field from Route 17 because that would require scrutiny from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), but they would rather have traffic travel down West Saddle River Road, which is a municipal street. NJDEP noticed the occurrence of bald eagles and black crowned night herons in this habitat, and these species will surely disappear as a result of the field. Mr. Fusco asked about the habitat of the people who live here. He asked if studies have been done concerning the property values, safety, and quality of life of the residents.
Mr. Fusco stated that this is all about the desires of a special interest group, who do not live in the neighborhood, and the price that local residents will pay who bear the burden of living next to a major league baseball field. The study fails to mention the residents who live in the area, who are asking that the project be scaled back, and to have the appropriate studies conducted to protect the people who live here. The residents want a development that will make sense, and preserve the historic element and value of the site, and the character of the neighborhood.
Jim Albano, 363 Bogert Avenue, President of the RBSA, said that the Schedler Park was purchased because people in the adjacent neighborhoods indicated that they didn’t want the property to fall into the hands of developers. He read from the December 9, 2008, meeting minutes where Mayor Pfund said that if the Schedler property is purchased the residents need to remember that it would be utilized. He didn’t want anyone to complain about a field being built there in the future. Mr. Albano stated that even at that point a sports complex was planned if the property was purchased, and the plan included two fields.
Mr. Albano said that Veterans Field is the only 60/90 field in Ridgewood. There is a huge baseball program in Ridgewood, and the town needs another large field. Village baseball teams have to go out of town to play, due to the lack of appropriately sized fields in the Village. People shouldn’t be concerned that teams from out of town will be playing on this field because there still won’t be adequate fields for the number of Ridgewood players, even when this field is built. Mr. Albano said it is all about the kids. He understands residents’ concerns because he lives around the corner from Travell School, and close to Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and Valley Hospital. He has adapted to the additions to these three buildings because it was in the best interests of the Village. Mr. Albano pointed out that a 60/90 field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School was lost and must be replaced, and there is no space left in the Village, with the exception of the Schedler property. Mr. Albano concluding stating that he supports this plan.
Michael Conn, 300 McKinley Place, noted that a lot of the information he is hearing from both sides doesn’t appear to be truthful. He has been a resident for 25 years and has had five children take advantage of the sports programs in the Village. He supports the 90-foot field because he has experienced the difficulty involved by the absence of sufficiently sized facilities. Mr. Conn said that the Schedler property was purchased for the use of everyone in the Village, and he wants all children in Ridgewood to be able to play on appropriately sized fields.
Lauren Radossich, 581 Upper Boulevard, said that she supports the Schedler Park plan including the 60/90 field. There are over 280 children who play on the 60/90 field now, and there will be thousands of children who will be able to take advantage of this field in the coming years. She stated that the plan includes a component for a park, which will be beneficial for the Village. Ms. Radossich said that she is comfortable with the research the Village Council has done, and she reiterated that she supports the plan.
Adam Scovola, teacher and baseball coach at Ridgewood High School, supports the development of Schedler Park. He said that the junior varsity team is usually relegated to practicing at Somerville School or Hawes School, and the conditions of the fields are not good. These fields are not regulation fields, and he is always worried that someone will get hurt due to overuse of the fields. Mr. Scovola expects the popularity of baseball to grow, due to the risk that has recently been noted involving football. This will make field space all the more precious.
Laura Weaver, 554 Lynn Street, said that she has learned about the poor conditions of the baseball fields in Ridgewood over the past several years. The size and availability of the fields is so bad that her son may only be able to practice one day a week, and if it rains there will be no practice at all that week. At times private facilities are being paid in order to provide some practice time for various teams. Ms. Weaver has travelled throughout northern New Jersey, and southern New York State to about forty baseball fields, and she is sad to say that Ridgewood has the worst overall baseball facilities. Ms. Weaver offered her support of Schedler Field, and she asked the Village Council not to pass up this opportunity that would allow players to access a 60/90 baseball field in this beautiful complex.
A child stated that he loves to play baseball and that Ridgewood needs a 90-foot field so they have the right sized field for both practices and games.
Hussaina Husain, 387 Prospect Street, said she supports the 90-foot field. Her son is on the travelling baseball team, and it has become apparent to her that an additional large baseball field is sorely needed for players over twelve years of age. She urged the Village Council to reaffirm the resolution, which was passed in August.
Iman Husain, 387 Prospect Street, stated that he plays travel baseball with the 11 Youth Ridgewood Ravens. He will be playing on a 60/90 baseball field next year, and at this time Ridgewood only has three fields of this size, which are not in the best condition.
Bill Bartlett, 338 Queens Court, thanked the Village Council for the wonderful job they do to accommodate everyone, and listen to their comments. Mr. Bartlett said that he is mainly concerned about the traffic that will be generated by development of Schedler Park. He drives down West Saddle River Road several times a day, every day. He reiterated his statement from a couple of weeks ago that West Saddle River Road is a seriously undersized road at 23 ½ feet wide, compared to the normal size of 30 feet to 35 feet. There are no sidewalks. Mr. Bartlett knows that if there aren’t enough parking spaces in the parking lot, overflow parking will take place on West Saddle River Road. It is necessary to do a proper traffic count dedicated to that size of property from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., which would be combined with a traffic count at a similarly sized baseball field in Ridgewood, or another town at that same time. Mr. Bartlett stated that he is sure that the resulting count would indicate a tremendous amount of traffic being added to an already heavily travelled road.
Mr. Bartlett stated that there will be increased traffic across the intersection of Racetrack Road and West Saddle River Road, which has to be the largest area of potholes in Bergen County. No one appears to be responsible for this area, and it will get much worse with this traffic.
Jacqueline Hone, 30 Carriage Lane, read the letter, which she wrote to Robert Abbatomarco, which had been referenced earlier. The letter references information received through an OPRA request concerning Mr. Abbatomarco’s emails to Tim Cronin, Robert Sonenfeld, Janet Fricke, and Heather Mailander. The letter outlines discrepancies and missing information pertaining to the Village’s $25,000 grant application for Schedler Park. The County is seeking minutes of the Village Council’s Public Meeting held on October 14, 2015. Mr. Abbatomarco’s email states that the October 14th meeting is the only official public meeting of record for the development of Schedler Park as per County policy. As such, the County is requiring a new resolution representing the public comments of October 14, 2015. Reports and public comment from 2012 do not apply and are not acceptable. Ms. Hone stated that the Village’s resolution will need to be resubmitted as it refers to the public hearing having been held in April and May of 2012 to receive comments. The Village couldn't have received comments in 2012 for a grant application funding request being submitted in 2015.
Ms. Hone indicated that the minutes for October 14, 2015, will reflect a scene similar to the one tonight, with a standing room only crowd, where residents came forward and spoke to oppose the 90-foot plan for over 6 hours until 2:00 A.M. the next morning. There were several in the crowd who supported the 90-foot field, and tonight the Village Council is going to revisit resolution #15-257, which was passed on August 12, 2015. The County has determined that this resolution was passed in violation of Open Space guidelines, and should be revoked. The County is requesting a copy of the meeting minutes for the Public Hearing held on October 14, 2015.
Ms. Hone pointed out that in September 2015, Village staff proceeded with resolutions misinforming the public, and losing their credibility. The Village Council was warned by members of the public that things were being done in a wrongful manner. They filed complaints, and were characterized as petty and were ignored. Ms. Hone said that Mayor Aronsohn should have contacted her relative to the letter she wrote, and asked her for proof that the information contained in the letter was correct. Ms. Hone had asked for the opportunity to demonstrate to the Mayor that all of her allegations can be clearly substantiated. She has information obtained from OPRA requests showing that each of her allegations can be proven. Ms. Hone asked Mayor Aronsohn to respond to their concerns.
Paul Woodburn, 66 North Irving Street, indicated that even though he lives on the other side of town, he opposes the 90-foot field at the Schedler property. Mr. Woodburn recalled that years ago, the Board of Education did the same thing to the residents of Irving Street. They said they would be installing one AstroTurf field, but now he has three transformers at the front of his driveway for the lights that shine onto the field every night until 9:00 P.M.
Mr. Woodburn recalled that several weeks ago, Mayor Aronsohn or one of the Councilmembers stated that the parking on North Irving Street was not a problem. Mr. Woodburn has to call the police almost every night to tell them that there are fifteen cars parked up and down North Irving Street. This is supposed to be a drop-off area only; however, parents sit in their cars and watch their children for an hour and a half. When they see the police come, fifteen minutes after Mr. Woodburn has called, these people leave. This is what will happen at Schedler Park. Mr. Woodburn, his wife, and a neighbor put together a petition to prohibit parking on the street because the whole situation was dangerous with children haphazardly running across the street. He urged the Village Council to make the Schedler property exclusively into a park without the field, so as not to ruin it for the residents in the area.
Bart Rekucki, 215 Hempstead Road, said that he has three grown sons, who all participated in the wonderful program run by the RBSA. He said that Ridgewood needs another baseball field, and he supports Schedler Park.
Joe Coppola, 431 Jefferson Street, said that he is a former member of the RBSA board as a trustee. He recalled that in 2008, former Councilmember Pat Mancuso had asked him to sit in on meetings with the Open Space Committee. This happened at the same time as the field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School was being renovated. There had been a 60/90 field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, which hosted Junior Varsity and Varsity baseball games. Everyone was assured that the field would be replaced when the Schedler property was purchased, but that day hasn’t come yet. Mr. Coppola asked the Village Council to fulfill the obligations and promises made to these kids by allowing them to play on the 60/90 field at Schedler Park.
Mr. Coppola said that he understands the concerns relative to traffic, but this is the only available space in the Village for this sized field. There are no children being run over at Veterans Field or at Habernickel Park, and they won’t be run over at Schedler Park either. Residents must trust the developers and the police. He said that strategic speed bumps and traffic calming measures will be taken to ensure that the children will be able to play ball safely. Mr. Coppola agreed with an earlier speaker who stated that the number of children playing baseball will increase due to concerns about other contact sports, and concussions. He asked that the Village Council stand by the vote taken a few weeks ago, and approve the 90-foot field.
Tracy Keeney, 224 Canterbury Place, said that she is a former baseball coach. During her time as a coach she had to cancel games because even though they were given home games by the league, she was so low on the list that she couldn’t find an available field in Ridgewood. The players and the parents would have to travel to Woodcliff Lake or Wyckoff to use one of their fields. She supports the original plan for a beautiful park, which will include a 90-foot field.
Kari Sharry, 412 George Street, said she lives two blocks from Veterans Field, and one block from Maple Park. She enjoys living so close to the fields because of the easy access. Therefore, she supports the Schedler Park plan as proposed.
William Setter, 328 Van Emburgh Avenue, said that he was a coach involved with both the RBSA, and football for many years. He is very aware of the lack of facilities in Ridgewood for the various sports program. He favors this 60/90 field at Schedler Park which is necessary. Mr. Setter said he was fortunate enough to appear at a Village Council meeting several weeks ago and was proud to be recognized with the team of fourteen year olds that went to Michigan for the Little League World Series. This type of success comes from a community that supports facilities such as the proposed development at the Schedler Park. Mr. Setter said that at the moment the facilities are deficient, and as a resident of the east side of Ridgewood, he would have loved having a field for his children that was so easily accessible. He implored the Village Council to support the plan as proposed.
Scott Muller, 118 John Street, stated that he is sympathetic with some of the concerns expressed by residents on the east side of town, but the need for a 90-foot field is evident. There are 282 children coming into the age group in the recreation program who will play on a 60/90 field from ages 13 up to High School. Mr. Muller stated that the 90-foot field is the accepted size for this age group, and if the Schedler House were to be demolished there would be a large buffer area. He stated that there are compromises that could be made. He is confident that the Village will consider comments from area residents, and do whatever is necessary to address their concerns when developing the Schedler property. This will be a beautiful park that will be used by all of the residents of Ridgewood, and not just the baseball teams. He added that there would be a lot more reason for opposition if this property had fallen into the hands of a developer. Mr. Muller pointed out that every neighborhood in Ridgewood has a park nearby, and this property was purchased for that purchase. He supports the plan and encouraged everyone to make the compromises necessary to make this a wonderful addition to the system of parks in Ridgewood.
Joann Loyka, 685 Kingsbridge Lane, read a letter from her husband, whose concerns were ecological, environmental, historical, financial, and public health and safety because Schedler Park sits on a major state highway. He questioned how the town would address these aspects and concerns within the financial confines and budget that is reported to be $250,000. It is irresponsible and unacceptable to proceed under these conditions. Mrs. Loyka said that she concurred with her husband and urged the Village Council to remove the plan for the 90-foot baseball field on the Schedler property. Ms. Loyka asked if Councilman Sedon’s suggestion of revamping Veterans Field had been considered. She questioned whether two 90 foot fields could be installed at Veterans Field, with a smaller field on the Schedler property. She suggested that Village professionals consider upgrading Hawes Field.
Jill Dandorph, 419 Queens Court, said she has attended many of these meetings. She is amazed at the assortment of residents represented in the Schedler community, however, everyone agrees on three points. They do not want: the large 90-foot multi-purpose field, the clear cutting of trees, and their quality of life damaged. Physicians have implored the Village Council to listen to how the health and general wellbeing of residents would be adversely affected by the loss of the trees, and the destruction of the current environment, so that an oversized field can be built in a space where it doesn’t fit. Several attorneys asked that the plan be examined by professionals who would look into traffic and safety issues with regard to the oversized field. Real Estate Agents commented on the decline in home values in the area if this park were to be built along Route 17, due to the exposure of the neighborhood to noise and pollution. Architects asked that the plan be reconsidered due to the expenses, and suggested that the proposal be resubmitted to include the thoughts of neighborhood residents. She also heard comments from parents of children of all ages asking the Village to re-examine their plans before the neighborhood is overrun with cars, buses, and strangers
Ms. Dandorph said that she and her husband have eighty-five combined years in the New Jersey Public School system. As a teacher, administrator, learning disability consultant, and a superintendent their shared concern is for the safety of the children, who will be using this field without a tremendous amount of supervision. She has witnessed “free time” on the playground with supervision as a teacher in the elementary, middle, and high school environment. The children have the freedom to move around and engage in activities that they love, and when redirected these children have a difficult time listening and focusing because it is playtime. Placing this oversized field so close to one of the busiest thoroughfares in New Jersey, and adding cars, buses, spectators, and walkers, with very little supervision means it will only be a matter of time before there is a disaster. This is a perfect storm of huge problems, with children being placed in an unsafe environment. Ms. Dandorph stated that this is a lose/lose situation, and she asked the Village Council to listen to the doctors, lawyers, parents, teachers, architects, real estate agents, financial planners, and older retired residents, who want peace and quiet after working for so many years. She asked that the Village Council consider the quality of life for everyone.
Patricia Infantino, 6 Betty Court, said she does not understand how the Village Council could go forward with Phase One of the plan for the Schedler property, when no one has any idea of what is coming with Phases Two and Three. There isn’t enough money to go forward with the plan in its entirety even with the RBSA money, so she wondered why there is a rush to remove the trees. Ms. Infantino said that the Village doesn’t have the money to build the berm, and the site plan is flawed. She asked again why the Village is going forward with Phase One, when Phases Two and Three haven’t been developed.
Clair Kerner, 636 Terhune Road, stated that she has previously been before the Village Council before to voice her opposition to the clear cutting of the trees, and the size of the field. She recalled that when the property was purchased in 2008, there was a spirit of compromise between the RBSA, the Open Space Committee, and the residents because no one wanted the property to fall into the hands of a developer. Everyone was aware that the property would be developed into a park for active and passive recreation, as well as some type of sports field. She looked back at her emails from 2008, and stated that the 90-foot field has always been a bone of contention. An email from Pat Mancuso stated that the improvements to the property subsequent to the purchase will be borne by various sports groups, additional grants from the County, corporate and resident sponsors, and fund raisers. One concept of what the property might look like was part of a presentation to the Bergen County Open Space Trust that consisted of a baseball field, multi-use field, and a meandering track. Ms. Kerner stated that after a successful acquisition, everyone can work together to finalize the improvements. This is what the residents are asking for, and there was never an agreement to the plan for the 90-foot baseball field that was put forth.
Ms. Kerner stated that she does not oppose a ballfield, but a 90-foot field is too large for the available space. A significant sound barrier is imperative, and she suggested that RBSA members walk to the area where the baseball diamond is to be located to experience the deafening noise from the highway firsthand. She asked the Village Council to reconsider this location for a field of this size, and consider other options in the Village. They need to find a solution that meets the needs of the children, as well as the neighbors.
Linda Ferraro, 657 Howard Road, said that she is a mother, a runner, and a cyclist, in addition to being the owner of two dogs. She has travelled many miles down West Saddle River Road during the twenty years she has lived in the neighborhood. This area of the Village is often forgotten, however, Ms. Ferraro wants to make sure that the voices of the neighborhood are not forgotten, and that the qualities of the neighborhood are retained. Ms. Ferraro stated that she opposes the field, and supports the conservation and beautification of open space, which benefits all residents. She is concerned about noise, the destruction of precious open space which has attracted many home buyers, traffic, safety, and quality of life. She asked whether the convenience of having a field for the benefit a small group should justify altering the character and safety of a neighborhood of hundreds of families.
Dave Chanley, 725 Parsons Road, said that he lives about a quarter of a mile from Habernickel Park. He is a volunteer baseball coach with RBSA, and is in the travel program. It is amazing to see the beautiful fields other towns, have despite less means and less space. His sons have moved up and now play on the 50/70 sized field, which is located at Habernickel Park. He thanked the Village Council for supporting the development of that field, which he has found to be so convenient. Mr. Chanley said that his neighborhood has not been negatively affected by Habernickel Park, although he realizes that his neighborhood does not have to deal with the highway. He trusts that the Village Council will undertake the necessary studies, and accept any recommendations and conclusions relative to pollution and noise.
Mr. Chanley referred to remarks that the field is oversized. He pointed out that during every baseball game there are nine players on the field, no matter the size of the field. This would indicate that the number of spectators attending is not determined by the size of the field. He stated that the parking lot at Habernickel Park is much smaller than what is proposed at Schedler, and from time to time there are cars parked on the street. He would not anticipate that this will be a problem at Schedler Park because the parking lot is larger. Mr. Chanley finds that traffic in the area is not a problem, and he and his family enjoy the pathway around the park, and the children’s playground. He feels that the value of his property has been greatly enhanced because of the close proximity to Habernickel Park. The Village is lacking in the availability of 60/90 fields, and he is sure that the Village Council and staff will come up with a plan that is visually appealing, and that the police will be responsive to the questions of safety in the neighborhood. He noted that the concession stand will be run by the RBSA in order to raise money through the sale of water, hot chocolate, and some snacks. It will not be a concession stand on the scale of those found at Yankee Stadium.
Karen Whalen, 218 Paramus Road, stated that she has volunteered with the RBSA during the thirteen years she has resided in Ridgewood. She is currently the Administrator, and a former Board Member of the RBSA, and is a mother of seven. She has a clear view in both directions of Route 17 from her home. This wasn’t always the case until recently when trees were cut down to provide room for a strip mall that contains the new Starbucks. No one from this neighborhood complained of trees being clear cut during those hearings. Her family continues to open the windows in their home even though it is noisier, but she hasn’t noticed an increase in dust. Ms. Whalen stated that her youngest daughter and her husband have asthma, and was born with the illness. Their conditions have not worsened nor have they been negatively impacted since the trees were removed.
During the last several weeks, Ms. Whalen has listened to the arguments against locating the 90-foot baseball field at Schedler Park. She stated that there are false arguments made using key buzz words in an attempt to stop a beautiful project that has been in the works for eighteen years, and intended for use by everyone in the Village. Ms. Whalen said that she was well aware that she was purchasing a house on a County road in close proximity to Route 17 at a very busy intersection. She doesn’t think having a ball field in the neighborhood is a sacrifice, and it will only make the neighborhood more desirable to someone who wants to live near the park. She was troubled to hear that people are concerned about “riff raff” and other undesirables that will be using the park. She said that the only people using the park will be neighbors, and other residents of Ridgewood. Ms. Whalen pointed out that when you are involved with sports in a town you find that this to be a family within the community. She said that the children in Ridgewood are not “riff raff”, but are the future of the community, and they deserve to have the 60/90 field that was promised when the field was removed at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. Schedler Park is the best location for this field.
Ms. Whalen addressed Councilman Sedon’s suggestion of an additional 60/90 field at Veterans Field with the following questions.
How many other fields will be removed to accommodate this field?
How will the band shell performances be handled?
Are you aware that the fields would have to overlap rendering them unusable at the same time?
How does placing two fields at Veterans Field address the issue of overuse of fields especially since the fields have to overlap?
Will the Village Council ask the baseball and softball community not to oppose this change, and promise the rebuilding of a newly taken away field somewhere else in the Village?
Ms. Whalen feels that there is an attempt to demonize people who only want what they were promised when the 60/90 baseball field was removed from Benjamin Franklin Middle School. They are happy to have a park at the Schedler property as long as they don’t have to share it with the rest of the Village, and that is wrong.
Anuradha Shrimali, 645 Terhune Road, said that she would not repeat the concerns of residents in her neighborhood. She is sure that Councilmembers are keeping a tally, and she hopes that they are asking themselves how they would feel if they lived on West Saddle River Road, or Terhune Road. She stated that last year, a builder bought the house next door to her. He plans to demolish the house and build a new house because Terhune Road is a quiet and attractive street. Close friends of hers from out of town were interested in buying the house, but they changed their minds when they heard about the plans for Schedler Park. She pointed out that during the fall and winter, the noise from Route 17 increases because there are no leaves on the trees. Ms. Shrimali questioned how many Councilmembers live on West Saddle River Road, Terhune Road, Kingsbridge Lane, or Chelsea Lane. She noted that none of them live in this section of the Village. There is no analysis of what will happen to property values, or how quality of life will be impacted after this park is completed. No one who lives in this neighborhood has spoken in support of the park. Ms. Shrimali stated that she opposes the building of a park on the Schedler property.
Suzanne Ruane, 705 Kingsbridge Lane, said she opposes the 60/90 baseball field for all of the reasons stated tonight. She lives in the last house on Kingsbridge Lane, and she said that there are many cars that get lost on Route 17 and make “U” turns into her driveway to get back to the highway. Her daughter is involved both with RBSA and the Maroons. She enjoys the open space on her street and at the Schedler property, where she plays with her friends. Her daughter wonders why there are plans for such a large field in her neighborhood, and thinks a smaller field would be great.
Jack Horney, 687 Howard Road, said he is opposed to the 60/90 field. He also opposes the removal of trees called for in Phase One of the Schedler Park plan until there is a clear understanding of the full project. He wants to see a plan, a timeline, a budget, and funding. These fields will be used for practices as well as games, and as a former coach with the Maroons he knows that many children will be left to get to these practices on their own. He doesn’t want to see any children standing at the Shell Station on Route 17 considering whether or not to cross the highway to get to the baseball field. A plan is needed to ensure that an individual can safely get from the east side to the west side.
A resident at 561 Nagle Street said that she has lived in Ridgewood for a year and has had a wonderful experience as a baseball coach. She is originally from the Mendham Chester area and was shocked at the condition of the baseball fields in Ridgewood, and the fact that there are so few fields. She noted that when she was looking for a home her children told her that they wanted to live within walking distance of a baseball field. The development of this baseball field will benefit the community for years to come. She said that it is important to her that trees are not removed unnecessarily and that everyone feels safe in their communities.
Jim Suozzo, 16 North Irving Street, is in favor of this baseball field, and he recalled that several years ago he attended a Village Council meeting to voice his support for the baseball field on Irving Street. He noted that people in the neighborhood may experience some initial inconvenience although this didn’t happen to him. The fact that Ridgewood only has one 60/90 field is shocking, and needs to be addressed.
Dianne Palacios, 342 North Van Dien Avenue, commented on the fact that many parents are attending this meeting with their children. She said that this is a teachable moment for children, who can learn how important it is to have woods and undeveloped land. They must learn to appreciate wildlife and nature. On early morning walks in the summer, she has even seen foxes in the area. She suggested that the Schedler property be turned into a creative colony or camp for children who are so bombarded with information these days. This is the last green area in Ridgewood, and it must be preserved.
Tim Boucher, 235 Kenilworth Road, said that he has coached softball and baseball in Ridgewood for over twenty years, and is on the RBSA Board. He supports the 60/90-foot field, and added that many of the fields in the Village are in need of repair. He pointed out that many 15 and 16 year olds are playing ball at Somerville School, which is too small for that age group, who have a better chance of injury on those fields. Mr. Boucher added that softball players are only able to practice on Veterans Field.
Mr. Boucher said his son was on the team from Ridgewood that went to the Little League World Series this year. His son wrote a paper in which he stated that he has gained confidence through baseball, and when he got to high school he was more of a man due to his encounters with other players from the U.S. and other countries. Mr. Boucher said that this is not about us. It is about our children and the fields they will play on. He wants to see his children remain in Ridgewood as adults, and enjoy this great community. Mr. Boucher pointed out that the entire town will use and benefit from the field.
Tony Barbera, 458 George Street, said he is an RBSA trustee, and has been a coach for the past fourteen years. He commended the Village Council for staying at these meetings and listening to everyone’s opinions until 2:00 A.M. over the last three meetings. Mr. Barbera stated that he supports the proposed baseball field; however, he hears and understands the compassion and concerns of the residents in the Schedler Park neighborhood. He noted that this is a park with passive and active combination of usage for the enjoyment of the entire town. The children of Ridgewood sacrificed a baseball field in order to have a nice track at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and they were promised a 60/90 ball field. He is sure that the people walking around this park at 6:00 P.M. or 7:00 P.M. will enjoy seeing a baseball game going on. Mr. Barbera hopes to see the plan go forward as proposed.
Tom Olsen, 380 Cedar Avenue, said he is in favor of the 90-foot field in its present configuration. The field is the correct size for anyone playing, who is thirteen or older, and it is not an oversized baseball field. He noted that many realtors feel that having a home within walking distance to a park to be a selling point. There will be beautiful new trees that will replace the old, dead, and dying trees. Mr. Olsen again said he supports the field.
Manish Shrimali, 625 Terhune Road, said that he is a part time soccer coach, and he tries to help out the children whenever he can. He is also part of the Green Team, which recently received a Sustainable Jersey Award under the leadership of Councilman Sedon. It took four or five years of hard work to finally achieve this award, and it would set a very bad example to cut acres of trees down after winning this award. Mr. Shrimali referred to the existing fields, which many people have described as being in bad shape. If the existing fields cannot be maintained, it will only be a matter of time before this field falls into disrepair. Mr. Shrimali said he is in favor of a smaller park on this property, but the process has to be clean and transparent.
Larry Mondi, 374 Manchester Road, said that he has been a baseball coach, and his sons have played baseball. His family has had a wonderful time being part of the RBSA program, and he supports the field. Mr. Mondi stated that his family lives about 100 yards from Habernickel Park, and he recalled that when they first moved, in he could see the horses at the farm from his living room window. When the park was proposed at the Habernickel property, he and his wife attended many meetings because they were concerned about the traffic. Eventually, the park was developed, and his family couldn’t be happier with the result. There are sometimes cars parked on the street, but that doesn’t take away from the atmosphere. Mr. Mondi said that if the park proposed for the Schedler property is anything like Habernickel Park, there will be generations of Ridgewood residents that will be very happy.
Tatiana Whalen, 218 Paramus Road, said she is eighteen, and has been involved with sports in Ridgewood for a long time. She is now a junior umpire and has firsthand experience of games that are cancelled due to a lack of field space. It bothers her that the players are having something they love being cancelled, and it should bother everyone else.
A resident at 635 Kenwood Road stated that he supports responsible development of Schedler Park. He has seen various plans for the site. One plan depicts ingress and egress from the highway; another shows a roundabout on West Saddle River Road; and now a plan has been presented, which omits the roundabout. He has no idea who designed these traffic plans, and he urged the Village to hire a traffic safety expert. He has also seen several different park designs. He questioned how many parks this individual has designed, and who this person is. He recommended hiring a landscape architect to get this right, since several million dollars will be invested in this area. There is no budget for this park, and he recommended making intelligent decisions based on expert opinions from people who do this for a living. He recalled that when Habernickel Park was being discussed, some people wanted the park to consist exclusively of ballfields and lights. Habernickel Park developed into what it is today because of compromise. The impact on the neighborhood was considered, which is why people are so happy with the results. This is the formula that must be followed with the development of this field on the Schedler property.
Phil Dolce, 625 Kingsbridge Lane, said that Habernickel Park is located in an area where the houses are magnificent. When the Habernickel property first became available, developers threatened the neighborhood with the development of condos, which is similar to what happened at the Schedler property. The Sports Council indicated that they wanted five fields if the property were to go forward as a park. In the end, the park was developed due to the fact that three outside agencies were involved and paid by the Village. Crew Engineering was paid to design the park; Vineri was paid to design the pond, and another agency was paid to conduct a safety study. The Village Engineer stated that there would be no lights at the park because the neighbors didn’t want them. The parking lot decreased in size from 60 spaces to 34 spaces. Mr. Dolce stated that these factors have resulted in a beautiful park, which has enhanced property values in this peaceful neighborhood.
Mr. Dolce pointed out that the 60/90 field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School was on thirteen and a half acres, and Veterans Field is fourteen acres. The Schedler property consists of only seven acres. He recalled that there was no public outcry or protest by the sports groups at the loss of the field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. He referred to the CMX report, which stated that the 90-foot field should be located at Pleasant Park or Lower Hawes Field, which is thirteen and a half acres. Mr. Dolce said that he feels the community is “being steered”, and he noted that there are forty adult teams that use Village fields in addition to the children. Mr. Dolce stated that the Open Space Committee wants to purchase six properties adjoining Schedler Field, which is another part of the story. He commented again that his neighborhood wants the same consideration that was given to the Habernickel Park neighborhood.
Giovanni Regina, 540 Bennington Terrace, said that he cannot support the plan for Schedler Park in its present form. He would prefer a more balanced approach, and he would like the Village to consider Route 17 as the entrance to the park. He noted that there is no access to the new strip mall on the other side of Route 17 from Paramus Road. The neighbors are concerned about a quick right turn onto West Saddle River Road, with an immediate left turn onto the park, and he agrees that a traffic study is necessary.
Last week, Mr. Regina spoke about Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and the Polo Grounds because they are all oblong shaped. The latest plan shows a 400-foot center field, which is much larger than necessary for boys who are playing recreation baseball. People who are playing for fun don’t need a gigantic outfield. A smaller field would avoid the clearance of such a huge number of trees, and the field would still be large enough for soccer and lacrosse. Football could be accommodated across the larger outfield. Mr. Regina again asked the Village Council to consider a balanced approach for the neighborhood.
Chip Conklin, 265 Westend Avenue, said he coaches a travelling baseball team of children who started playing when they were eight years old, and are now fifteen. Mr. Conklin stated that play on a 60/90 field is now being pushed at a very early age. Players go from playing Little League baseball directly to play on a 60/90 field, and there is more demand for larger fields than there used to be. It is difficult to accommodate the rec teams, travelling teams, and the high school teams on the fields when the season begins in early March. As a coach of a travelling team, he likes to have at least one practice a week, in addition to playing three or four games. He said that the only field considered to be a 60/90 field is Veterans Field. He pointed out that there are a lot of wetlands surrounding Hawes Field, which prevents it from being expanded.
Mr. Conklin said that there is no down time for the fields used for soccer and lacrosse. A 60/90 field is sorely needed, and there is no other place in Ridgewood that would accommodate a field of this size. He stated that the Schedler property must be developed correctly, and he understands the concerns of the people who live in the vicinity of the Schedler property. The Village needs to do whatever is necessary to beautify the area, and make it enjoyable for the residents; however, the 60/90 field needs to be located on this property because it is needed for the baseball community. Mr. Conklin disagreed with an earlier speaker who said that the same number of spectators will attend the games no matter the size of the field. Mr. Conklin said that there are more spectators at games played by younger children because there are grandparents, and other relatives and friends who want to watch the younger kids, in addition to the fact that these games are shorter. Mr. Conklin said that if done properly, the park will not hurt, but rather enhance home values.
Isabella Altano, 656 Kingsbridge Lane, said that the decision made about this property should be a decision that will enhance the Village. Everyone should be able to live in a place with optimal quality of life, and this is why she is in Ridgewood. Dumping a 90-foot field in a location that is ill suited does not give the neighborhood the quality of life it deserves. She understands that the baseball community needs a field, due to the loss of the field at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, but Schedler is not suited for that type of field. This is a vulnerable area, and the quality of life in this neighborhood will disappear with the addition of this field. Ms. Altano urged the Village Council to reconsider the location of this field. She asked for a smaller field with the parking lot situated closer to Route 17. This would avoid the removal of so many trees that act as a sound buffer for the residents in this community. This neighborhood needs life 24/7, and RBSA needs games sometimes. Ms. Altano said that they are not against the RBSA, but they want their neighborhood preserved.
Steve Correll, 375 Spring Avenue, stated that the Open Space Committee put a lot of thought and effort into this proposal for the park and field. He supports the 60/90 field because it is all about the kids, and it is very important for the town. In the past he had supported turf on several fields in the Village including Benjamin Franklin Middle School. He is looking forward to having two 60/90 foot fields to serve the children in the Village.
Doreen Regina, 540 Bennington Terrace, said that she agrees with the prior statements of the residents in the Schedler area, and their objections to the 90-foot field in this location. She also agreed with the sentiment that they must all work together. Ms. Regina recalled that early on, it was clearly stated that if the Village purchased the property a field would be located there. It was also noted that the property would be purchased with Green Acres funds, and developed within the spirit of the Green Acres Act. The residents were told that the property could be purchased by a developer for multi-family housing, which would include the required COAH units or it could be developed as a strip mall or a gas station. Ms. Regina said that it was never clearly indicated to residents in this area that the Village intended to place a 90-foot baseball field on this property, and all the residents are asking is that the field location be balanced. She asked that the resolution be revised to omit the reference to a “90-foot field” and replaced with the word “field”. She encouraged all sides to work together to accomplish a compromise. Ms. Regina said that residents were lead to believe that professional studies would be done before this area was developed.
Ms. Regina noted that this is a very isolated area of the Village, and there are not many options to get in and out of the neighborhood. She is very concerned about traffic piling up at the parking lot of the proposed park, especially when back to back games occur. She said they want to work together towards the development of a reasonable field on this property, and she asked the Village Council to have the empathy to reconsider the size of the field in light of the well-being of the neighborhood.
Paul D’Arpa, 574 Racetrack Road, said that when he moved into the neighborhood several years ago there was a problem with commuters parking on Racetrack Road. Neighborhood residents brought this problem to the attention of the Village Council, and the investigation of the issue was passed to Janet Fricke, Assistant to the Village Manager. Ms. Fricke did a thorough investigation, which included gathering information not just from Ridgewood residents, but from Ho-Ho-Kus residents as well. Mr. D’Arpa suggested that before any changes are made to parking regulations in the Village, the Village needs to contact everyone who will be affected.
Mr. D’Arpa stated that anyone who is selling their home in the Schedler neighborhood will only show it on Sundays, when the traffic is light enough not to be a distraction. Any notation that home values in the area will increase after the trees are removed can only come from someone who doesn’t understand this neighborhood. He said that nothing should be done at the Schedler property until the Village can ensure that property values will not be negatively affected.
Don Delzio, 636 Upper Boulevard, said that the neighbors do not have evidence that any of their talking points are based on proven fact. The Schedler plan continues to be vetted by a series of professionals who work for the Village, who have documented credentials. There is no basis in fact to support the opinion expressed by the neighbors. Mr. Delzio referred to the comment made earlier that the neighbors had a certified arborist examine the property, who concluded that the property did not contain any dead or diseased trees. Mr. Delzio asked to see a copy of the arborist’s report and invoice. He hopes that the Village Manager will respond to the email from Jacqueline Hone, which contained many inaccuracies.
Mayor Aronsohn spoke about Ms. Loving’s remarks concerning the parking deck, and said he supports the parking garage and hopes that it receives the support of residents next week at the General Election. He sent messages via his private email account because it didn’t seem appropriate to use his public account to do his private advocacy. Mayor Aronsohn urged everyone to support the parking garage.
Mayor Aronsohn stated there are no plans to make any decisions on the Schedler property this evening. In addition, there are no plans moving forward on anything other than applying for the grant, which will cover the cost of removal of the garage and shed, as well as removal of the dead and diseased trees. There were some people who were advocating for the stabilization, and/or preservation of the Schedler house, and Mayor Aronsohn said they couldn’t move forward with just one piece of the puzzle. He felt they needed to look at the property or the plan as one unit, therefore, it was decided to move forward with the resolution based on the Open Space report. This provides a pathway for those who want to preserve the house, and allows the Village to move forward with the fields, park, and playground. There has been no agreement on any one plan.
Mayor Aronsohn recalled that at a previous meeting, he agreed that professional studies are needed on sound and traffic. There are some unique challenges at the Schedler property in terms of sound and traffic safety. Mayor Aronsohn said that the Village Council and the public need to assess whether or not there is a need for a 90-foot baseball field. If the field is needed, the next question is whether Schedler Park is the best location for such a field. He stated that there are no plans to move forward until these questions are addressed.
Mayor Aronsohn asked the Village Council if they wanted to address only the items on the agenda which are time sensitive, due to the fact that it is almost 11:00 P.M. Councilwoman Knudsen indicated that she is comfortable addressing everything that is on the agenda. Councilman Sedon said he would go along with the majority.
Councilwoman Hauck said she was also prepared to go forward with the full agenda, however, she noted that this is the third meeting in a row that has gone past 1:00 A.M. This cannot become habit or the regular way that the Village conducts business, and regular business cannot be circumvented by public comments that go on for three and a half hours. They have to be more effective with time management.
Councilman Pucciarelli said that hearing public comment is critical to the work of the Village Council, who must be responsive. He wondered if the residents of Ridgewood actually want the Councilmembers to be making decisions at 2:30 A.M. This cannot become regular practice because no one is at their best after being up for twenty consecutive hours. Councilman Pucciarelli noted that the residents are very passionate about these issues, and he doesn’t want to be making these kinds of decisions at 2:30 A.M. The length of the Village Council meetings has to be addressed because this cannot become regular practice.
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that all of the awards and ordinances could be discussed next week, depending on the length of that agenda. Mayor Aronsohn said he would like to move forward. He pointed out that there is another portion of the meeting devoted to Public Comment. He reiterated that no decisions were being made on the Schedler property, and he asked members of the public if they would like the Village Council to proceed with the conversation about the resolution pertaining to the property. The audience indicated they would like the Village Council to take up the matter.
Councilman Sedon suggested special meetings to deal exclusively with more controversial subjects such as multi-family housing and the Schedler property. It is unfair to lump one massive issue along with everything else that may take an equal amount of time. Mayor Aronsohn agreed and stated that they have discussed having the Parks and Recreation Committee hold meetings on the Schedler property as they did with the Habernickel property.
1.) Hudson Street Parking Deck
Ms. Sonenfeld said that on Monday, November 2, 2015, there will be another in a series of open public forums on the Central Business District (CBD) in the Village Courtroom, at 7:30 P.M. A similar meeting last week was attended by approximately 30 people, and included presentations by architects and designers. The Village CFO explained that an analysis was done in support of the garage. The concepts for the garage have also been presented to the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).
Councilwoman Knudsen suggested a discussion of the increased meter rates and extended meter hours because she was concerned that there has not been an analysis done on the sustainability of this proposal, including the feasibility of the increased meter rates. Ms. Sonenfeld said that this is a conservative analysis that has not examined many of the various revenue streams, and has included some extra cost factors. The Walker Study assumed the same occupancy rate, and did not increase revenue rates, when the number of spaces increased from 350 spaces to 412 spaces. Mayor Aronsohn explained that the Walker Study concluded that the parking garage could be paid for without increasing taxes, and it offers a menu of options such as raising rates, and increasing the daily time when there is a charge for parking.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked if it was prudent to do the analysis based on the fact that it was based on higher level architectural detail. She feels that the analysis could have a financial impact on the actual cost of building the garage, because it is based on a different structure. Robert Rooney, Village CFO, stated that when Walker did the initial studies they had a wealth of information based on conversations, and the assumptions were based on the three scenarios that were used. Walker now has an estimated cost based on a range of parking spaces, and they have taken a conservative approach through the entire process. Walker has used history and their experience to come up with a revenue stream that takes the number from 350 to 412, and they are comfortable using 350 as the number which provides significant coverage. Therefore, Mr. Rooney is happy with the approach they have taken, but they have options and can adjust fees going forward.
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that the debt coverage ratio with net income is running between 1.5 and 1.8. Even after the debt is paid they are looking in the range of $300,000 on the low side for surplus. The estimated cost of the garage was done independently between Walker and Desman, and they are both within $100,000.
Councilwoman Knudsen noted that there were a number of complaints about the increased parking rates. She wondered if the rates should be increased for a fixed period of time to determine whether it is sustainable. Mr. Rooney said that to his knowledge, Walker used various methodologies. There were many meetings where assumptions, as well as internal and external comments, were discussed. Mayor Aronsohn referred to the Chamber of Commerce, whose members include different retailers and services, and stated that they have never been against lengthening the hours for parking. Some were actually against moving the time back to 6:00 P.M., and he hasn’t heard any opposition. He said that they should continue public outreach.
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that they had considered keeping the meters in effect until 9:00 P.M. initially, however, concluded that 8:00 P.M. would be better even though it would mean the loss of $50,000. Mayor Aronsohn said that the Walker report decreased the out of town commuter passes significantly, and made conservative revenue estimates. Councilman Pucciarelli remarked that if these assumptions were to be increased, the debt coverage ratio would be enhanced.
Councilman Sedon asked about parking rates in neighboring towns, and wondered if Ridgewood would price itself out of the market. Mr. Rooney stated that Walker looked at fees in the train towns such as Montclair and Englewood, in addition to Ridgewood. They found parking rates in Ridgewood to be on the low end. Based on their experience, this will be an enhancement for the community that will bring people into Ridgewood to shop and dine. Ms. Sonenfeld pointed out that the rates will be raised from 50 cents to 75 cents in the core CBD. The parking rate will remain at 50 cents for spaces further from the core area. Councilman Pucciarelli noted that the Walker study indicated a reduction in parking demand of 10% with each parking fee increase as people look for free alternatives or chose to go elsewhere. He noted that the demand for parking from non-residents plummeted, when the price went from $750 annually to $1,500. Having an adequate supply of parking will allow out of towners to return if the price is lowered. Councilman Pucciarelli agreed that the assumptions by Walker are conservative, and there are built in revenue generators. Mayor Aronsohn stated that the Walker Study demonstrates that the parking structure can be done without impacting taxes.
Mayor Aronsohn stated that the Village does not intend to charge for parking on Sundays. Councilwoman Knudsen noted that Mt. Carmel has a service on Saturday at 6:00 P.M. Parishioners at 6:00 P.M. will be subject to a parking fee. Mayor Aronsohn said that this is yet to be determined.
2.) Amend Valet Parking Ordinance
Ms. Sonenfeld said that when this ordinance was initially discussed, everyone agreed it was a work in progress. Christopher Rutishauser has listed several suggestions for changes to the original ordinance. One of the issues was how to control the valet services during the 5:00 P.M. to 3:00 A.M. time frame. Four restaurants have banded together and submitted a request for approval to conduct valet parking for all four establishments by sharing one valet. The Village is looking at the question of what happens if the person using the valet parking doesn’t go to one of those four restaurants. These restaurants are considering putting a surcharge on the bill for valet parking. Ms. Sonenfeld said that this question requires research by Mr. Rogers.
Councilman Sedon observed that this is unique to the area, and it seems to be an extension to the valet parking ordinance. The Village Council needs to clearly understand what is offered now in the way of valet parking before expanding or adding further problems. Ms. Sonenfeld agreed that Councilman Sedon raised a good point on free-lance valet parking, and outside hours of operation. Mayor Aronsohn suggested a thorough discussion of these issues at the next meeting, and Ms. Sonenfeld agreed.
1.) Award Change Order – Maintenance of Irrigation and Water Fountain Service
Ms. Sonenfeld reported that this item had been removed because it isn’t ready to be discussed.
2.) Award Change Order – Rinbrand Well Drilling
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that this is a change order for a well drilling. The cost for the drilling increased from $66,000, to $126,000, and up to $259,000. The original bid did not include materials, labor and equipment, and there were more issues with wells, stemming from EPA deficiencies that had to be fixed. Ms. Sonenfeld said that she would like to make Ridgewood Water a key strategic discussion during upcoming budget discussions.
3.) Award Contract – Jeep Patriot Under State Contract for Water Utility Department
Ms. Sonenfeld said that this is an award for a Jeep Patriot that was agreed upon during a vehicle analysis that was done during capital budget discussions last year.
4.) Award Contract – Finish and Install Control Valves
Ms. Sonenfeld explained that this is a contract to finish and install control valves that are necessary for the sanitary survey findings. This is relative to the administrative order which was issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), and it was budgeted for in the Water Department.
5.) Evaluation of Alternatives for Village Owned Buildings and Properties
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that this was part of the strategic discussion with the Village Council relative to the footprint, and where the Village would like to be, going forward. The Village Council agreed to undertake a study. There was a lot of interest in the RFP that was written, and three candidates were interviewed. She is recommending that they go forward with RSC who will look at the pros and cons of each facility. They will look at three levels of development, including the consolidation of departments, and alterations and renovations to existing facilities. This company has done work for the Village previously, relative to flood conditions on the first floor of Village Hall, and they have done work for the County, as well as neighboring municipalities.
Councilman Pucciarelli pointed out that all of the water facilities will be part of this study. Ms. Sonenfeld observed that the both Village Hall and the Police Department do not make the best use of the space that is available. She hopes to receive a capital plan, which covers a ten-year period.
6.) NJDOT Paving Grant Application
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that she isn’t sure that the Village will be receiving what had become an annual NJDOT grant for paving. The grant is being submitted based on several CBD streets around the proposed parking deck, even though there have been issues with the transportation fund. These streets include South Broad Street, Passaic Street, and Hudson Street, as well as the area around the bus station.
7.) Shared Service Agreement with Ho-Ho-Kus for Adult Health Clinic
Ms. Sonenfeld said this is a Shared Service Agreement with Ho-Ho-Kus for an Adult Health Clinic for flu shots.
8.) Village Calendar Printing Bid
Ms. Sonenfeld said that this is an award of contract for the printing of the Village calendar to Ridgewood Press. The price is consistent with last year’s price.
1.) Amendment to Salary Ordinances
Ms. Sonenfeld explained that this is an amendment to salary ordinances dealing with White Collar Supervisory, Non-Union, and Management. A similar amendment was done at the June 3, 2015 Work Session, and at that time, some titles were added while other titles were deleted. No new titles have been added this time; however, Ms. Sonenfeld commented that she is striving for better code enforcement. Ms. Mailander stated that as new people are hired and new titles are added the salary ordinance will be amended accordingly. Ms. Sonenfeld referred to salary ranges, and remarked that they will not artificially increase a range because someone is hired above the lowest salary in the range. People will be hired based on experience, education, and certification; however, there may be situations when they want to bring a junior person into the same range.
2.) Three-Year Cat License
Ms. Sonenfeld said that the Village issues dog licenses for three years, and the same procedure is being recommended for cat licenses. It will take three years to catch up. Councilwoman Knudsen said that this is a time saver and more efficient
1.) Discussion of Resolution #15-257 – Schedler Park Property
Councilwoman Knudsen referred to the requirement that the grant application contain the minutes for the public hearing of October 14, 2015. Ms. Mailander said that there is a new person doing the minutes, and she has asked that this individual do the minutes of October 14 first so that they can be forwarded to the County. Ms. Mailander assured the Village Council that the minutes for October 14th would be available for approval on November 9. Ms. Sonenfeld said that Bergen County has asked the Village to provide the meeting minutes for October 14, and resolution #15-338, which authorizes the submission of the resolution that was just done. Ms. Sonenfeld noted that the County will not offer an opinion on Resolution #15-257.
Councilwoman Knudsen said she has reviewed the minutes from various 2008 and 2009 meetings, and she attended meetings in 2012. She would like to have any language referring to a 90-foot baseball field removed, and to have the comments of the public incorporated. She suggested that wording be added that the Village Council recognize the need for active recreation fields, but that they will review the CMX report, and try to integrate a less intrusive approach to this. Councilwoman Knudsen said that in the 2008 meeting minutes, there was never any reference to the size of a field or a park. The minutes note that a resident, Alan Dlugash, spoke about the fear of being threatened by COAH or low income housing. The minutes reflect comments by Mr. Currey who talks about the West Saddle River Road Neighborhood Association as being the group that endorses the plan on behalf of the residents. He also mentions this group in a Letter to the Editor; however, no one seems to know who this group is, and there is no paperwork referring to this group. Councilwoman Knudsen said they should begin again in order to provide a more balanced approach and help the neighborhood determine what they need. They must consider how the RBSA will be accommodated, and changing the language in the resolution would be a positive step in rebuilding trust.
Mayor Aronsohn disagreed with the notion of revisiting the resolution. As part of the Village Council in 2008 and 2012 he recalls all of the discussions, but the first thing to do is to ask if there is a need for a 90-foot field. If the need is determined, the question then is whether Schedler is the best location. Mayor Aronsohn said he is not prepared to move forward until these questions are answered. The Village Council must address all of the issues, one by one.
Councilwoman Knudsen asked how the resolution could be retracted. She pointed out that Mayor Aronsohn commented that the Village doesn’t know if there is a genuine need because no analysis has ever been done and perhaps they are putting the cart before the horse.
Mayor Aronsohn stated that it was his understanding that the resolution was put forward because it was indicated that the Village needed to move on the Schedler house. Village professionals have concluded that the Schedler property is the only place for a 90-foot field, but they need to consider the suggestion of Councilman Sedon as to whether or not something could be done at Veterans Field.
Councilwoman Hauck commented that requesting to revisit issues because you don’t like the result delegitimizes the process. If it was obvious that the process was flawed, this resolution does not mandate construction of a 90-foot baseball diamond, it only recommends construction of a ball field. She is learning a lot from the public comment, much of which requests the modification of the proposal, and a fair and balanced compromise. She believes that all of the issues can be addressed, even with this resolution in place, because the language doesn’t prohibit any of the changes the residents are requesting be considered.
Councilman Sedon reported that at a recent Open Space Committee meeting, there was not much support for his suggestion that they look at some changes that could be made at Veterans Field. He didn’t get the feeling there was any support on behalf of Village staff to look at alternatives. He is happy to learn that Mayor Aronsohn agrees that the proposal needs to be revisited
Ms. Sonenfeld referred to questions concerning a budget for this project. She had indicated that there was not a budget in place at this time, and she added that there were no discussions during budget meetings earlier this year regarding the Schedler property. The reason they are looking at the fields now is because the matter of the Zabriskie-Schedler house came up. She stated that they have been looking at Veterans Field to place the 90-foot baseball field, but it is not looking positive at this time, and perhaps this is what was reflected at the Open Space Committee meeting attended by Councilman Sedon.
Councilman Pucciarelli said that everyone should agree that this is a good problem to have. The Village has a thriving Little League program, as well as an area that citizens want to keep as a park. There are two questions needing solutions. The first is what should be done with the Schedler property, and the second is the fact that the RBSA needs a 90-foot baseball field. Councilman Pucciarelli recognized that when this property was acquired there was a promise made to the RBSA that this property would be used as a baseball field. People may have thought they heard it would be a 90-foot field; however, elected officials are responsible to the citizens, many of whom have spoken out against a 90-foot field. He questioned the best resolution for these two competing interests. Councilman Pucciarelli suggested examining the issues that have arisen, that the public is concerned about, relative to the baseball diamond. These issues are noise, traffic, safety, health, and a concern that the Village has not engaged outside professionals. He agreed with Mayor Aronsohn’s suggestion to bring in outside consultants relative to noise and the impact of tree removal.
Councilman Pucciarelli indicated that Ridgewood doesn’t have the luxury of leaving seven acres as a wooded area, and he pointed out that Mrs. Schedler would have been within her rights as a property owner to clear cut the property. There is a promise that this area would be used for active and passive recreation shared with the people of Ridgewood. The only question is whether the baseball field will be 60 feet or 90 feet, and he is not sure what was promised. He would like to get more information about the demand for a 90-foot field from the RBSA, including who would be using it. He would like Village staff to provide details of alternative sites for a 90-foot field, including the area behind Hawes school, which was mentioned several years ago in the CMX report. They need to look for an alternative site; however, Councilman Pucciarelli said emphatically that the field should not contain lights and turf.
Councilman Pucciarelli concluded that this is a good time, where the Village acting in good faith as one community can try to solve two problems. He reiterated that the question is how to develop the active/passive park in a way that satisfies the demand for the park and where the 90-foot baseball field would be located. He feels it would be unfair to the RBSA to eliminate a 90-foot baseball field from the resolution because it presumes they are not entitled to a field of this size. He said he would defer on the Schedler house because he is not sure what is to be gained if the house is restored. Councilman Pucciarelli concluded that these problems can be solved in an appropriate way.
Ms. Sonenfeld said that she would like information on the inventory of fields in the Village, including the size and use. They need to look at the possibility of whether fields could be changed to a 90-foot field, and it may be valuable to have independent consultants look at these alternatives as well.
Councilwoman Knudsen indicated that it is important to amend the resolution to state that the Schedler property should be developed for both active and passive recreational purposes contingent on the studies that should have been done earlier. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that what she has heard at this meeting and at previous meetings, the majority of residents would favor active and passive recreation with a field. It would be a show of good faith to remove this language and simply state “a field”. Councilman Pucciarelli said he would vote for that resolution only when they have found another location in the Village for a 90-foot field because a 90-foot field was promised to the RBSA. Councilwoman Knudsen questioned whether or not there was ever anything in writing documenting that a 90-foot field, with a multi-purpose overlay, was guaranteed on this property. Councilman Pucciarelli said it is not necessary for the Village Council to decide one way or the other on the specific size of the field. He reiterated that there are two problems that must be solved.
Mayor Aronsohn stated that he does not want to revise the language of the resolution. He wants the need for a 90-foot field to be addressed, and the idea of an inventory of all fields is a positive starting point. Councilwoman Hauck said that there is not sufficient reason to change the wording of the resolution which has been voted on, because the outcome may not change. Everyone has agreed on the need to go back to the drawing board and do an analysis, but there is no need to change the wording of the resolution. Councilman Sedon said he would be in favor of a generally worded resolution stating that there will be something active and passive on the Schedler property
Mayor Aronsohn concluded that there is not majority support to revise the language, however, there is unanimous support to look at the issues further, including a field inventory and an analysis of traffic and sound using outside consultants. He noted that there is no effort being made to move forward quickly, and the Village Council has tried to be responsive to those people advocating for the house. He suggested an in-house, responsible analysis and taking this one step at a time. Both Councilwoman Knudsen and Councilman Pucciarelli agreed that this matter had to be resolved by accommodating competing needs, in order to make everyone happy.
2.) Discussion of Campaign/Political Signs
Councilmembers agreed to discuss this at the next meeting.
5. MANAGER’S REPORT
Ms. Sonenfeld reported that this is the second year of the “No Leaf Left Behind” initiative. There was a meeting with everyone who is involved in the leaf process, and they are considering some enhancements to this process. Ms. Sonenfeld stated that the Village purchased a claw instrument, and there is a new contractor, who will take over Section B at a cost of $20,000 less than last year’s rate.
Ms. Sonenfeld noted that there were many complaints last year in connection with stricter enforcement. The Village decided not to strictly enforce many of the requirements last year because there was a new leaf schedule and process, however, residents were informed that compliance would be expected in 2015, or summonses would be issued. Ms. Sonenfeld stated that forty summonses requiring court appearances were issued in two days, and a decision was made that during the first week after leaf pick up, a warning only would be issued. During the second and third weeks, summonses would be issued.
Ms. Sonenfeld asked residents not to put their recycling barrels on the street because it makes leaf pick up difficult.
Ms. Sonenfeld reiterated that Ridgewood Water would be one of the focal points of next year’s budget meetings. She noted that Passaic Water raised their rates 4.5% on October 23, 2015. She had stated at a previous meeting that United Water was raising its rates by 18%. Most of these rate increases are directly related to capital expenditures. Ms. Sonenfeld stated that the Village Council had decided not to raise the water rates by the customary 3% this year, because it was too confusing due to the replacement of water meters, and other customer issues. The Village Council will need to discuss potential rate increases and capital requirements. Ms. Sonenfeld stated that Dave Scheibner is speaking on drought resistant gardens at the Bergen Passaic Chapter of the Native Plant Society at Bergen Regional Medical Center.
Ms. Sonenfeld announced that Saturday, November 7th is meeting the Mayor and Saturday, November 14th is Meet the Manager from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. She visited the stairs on Upper Boulevard that lead to the Ho-Ho-Kus train station with several staff members. The stairs are in need of repair which were not included in the budget, and they are considering blocking the stairs since they are a safety hazard.
Upcoming Events – Ms. Sonenfeld stated that the Ridgewood Guild is presenting Spooktacular on October 31st, which includes a costume parade and contest at Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. She noted the CBD Forum that will take place this Monday regarding the parking garage. Ms. Sonenfeld announced that on November 5th and 6th, many programs will be offered such as indoor science and basic robotics as part of the Recreation Programs during the Teachers’ Convention break. Ms. Sonenfeld urged everyone to vote on November 3rd.
6. COUNCIL REPORTS
Planning Board - Councilwoman Knudsen reported that Tito’s Burritos presented their plan for a modified façade based on recommendations by the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission. This has been a frustrating exercise for both sides, and costly for Tito’s Burritos. Councilwoman Knudsen said she is working diligently to have this matter resolved by the November 12th HPC meeting. The HPC is not happy with the blue façade and yellow lights, which is a violation of the agreement from five years ago. Tito’s is a popular business and brings a lot of foot traffic to the area, and they are hoping for a meeting next Friday to address the remaining open issues.
Councilwoman Knudsen stated that the Planning Board completed a courtesy review of the Hudson Street Parking Deck. A courtesy review allows for input as it pertains to the overall structure, design, fit and detail. Planning Board Members pointed out both positive and negatives of the project. There were some concerns relative to the cantilevered portions over Hudson Street that came up during a general discussion. Councilwoman Knudsen stated that the HPC commented on the design and architectural detail, and how well it fit into the streetscape to ensure the integrity of the historic business district. She referred to a Letter to the Editor written by Vince Parrillo who is the Chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission. The Commission did not have a discussion relative to approval, and at no time did they indicate that anyone should vote yes on the parking deck. She contacted Mr. Parrillo about the letter, and Mr. Parrillo said that Mayor Aronsohn approached him about writing the letter. Councilwoman Knudsen was surprised because there was no discussion relative to an approval or an endorsement letter. She asked that the letter be removed from the Village website. Councilwoman Knudsen agreed with an earlier point made by Ms. Loving regarding emails sent from personal email accounts and reiterated that no endorsement or approval of the parking garage has been made by the HPC.
Councilman Pucciarelli stated that he is thrilled that Vince Parrillo has agreed to chair the HPC, and he hopes that getting embroiled in this particular incident will not deter him from continuing to serve.
Library – Councilman Pucciarelli stated that the Mad Men gala at the Library was well attended, and very successful. The event is a major fund raiser for the Library Foundation. Councilman Pucciarelli attended a meeting with the architect for the Library and Library staff. The plans for the Library for the upcoming year are exciting.
Ridgewood Arts Council – The Ridgewood Arts Council met with its trustees yesterday. Many capable people came forward, and he is hopeful that most of them will decide to serve as trustees. They were given a tour of many pieces of artwork that have been contributed by the Ridgewood Arts Council, and on January 30, 2016 the Arts Council will conduct a function that will look like a museum opening in Village Hall showcasing the artwork that has been donated.
Central Business District Forum - Councilman Pucciarelli announced a meeting of the Central Business District Forum on Monday from 7:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M., which will provide the opportunity for one last look at the plans for the Parking Garage before the referendum on November 3rd.
Conservancy for Public Lands – Councilwoman Hauck congratulated the Conservancy for Public Lands, who planted 5,000 bulbs on October 18th. Their goal is to plant 25,000 bulbs over three years, which will change the entire look of the community.
Councilwoman Hauck referred to the lighting plan alluded to earlier this evening by William Gilsenan. She stated that the Conservancy has been working on this plan for over a year. Memorial Park at Van Neste Square is hardly visible from dusk on, and the Conservancy hopes to highlight the beauty of the park after dark by shining soft, ambient lighting on the trees. Councilwoman Hauck met with the designers, and stated that their concept will enhance the vibrancy and functionality of the park, and extend the season well into winter. She hopes the Village Council will approve the plan so that the Conservancy can solicit private funding.
Councilwoman Hauck spoke about the sudden new mandates for affordable housing resulting from a court ruling. She has asked Jeffrey Surenian, who is an expert on affordable housing legislation, and who represents many municipalities, to attend the next Village Council meeting on November 4th. Mr. Surenian will explain how the March 10, 2015 New Jersey State Supreme Court decision on Affordable Housing will affect the region, and how municipalities like Ridgewood can mitigate overwhelming growth, which will result from these new court mandates. Councilwoman Hauck distributed information on what the COAH requirement estimates were for the towns in Bergen County. She stated that Ridgewood must provide up to 1,136 affordable units in the next ten years. The impact of this type of development will profoundly affect Village infrastructure and the municipal budget. Councilwoman Hauck said that the Planning Board must complete a housing plan element in five weeks, and must indicate where and how the Village will complete a requirement to provide these affordable housing units over the next ten years. Councilwoman Hauck stated that amending the Master Plan to facilitate housing projects between 32 and 35 units per acre would create approximately 40 affordable housing units, which might appear as an approved way for Ridgewood to partially address its obligation.
Councilwoman Hauck stated that the public should attend Planning Board Meetings in order to understand how this decision by the New Jersey State Supreme Court will affect the housing plan. Decisions made by the Village Council relative to the three zones in the CBD will most likely be influenced by this pressure. She again stressed the importance of having an expert speak at the next meeting to explain the implications of the Court ruling in order to cope with, and perhaps prevent, sudden growth in Ridgewood.
Mr. Rogers stated that the Shared Services defense expert will be coming up with the required number of housing units in December. Every town in New Jersey is facing the same dilemma from the Fair Share Housing Center, which is an advocate of affordable housing in the state.
Councilwoman Knudsen explained that there is always a small percentage of housing units set aside as affordable when construction takes place. These units are then assigned to low income housing which is based on a regional adjustment. Low income housing or COAH housing does not mean undesirable housing, and it is important to understand what the numbers mean and who is involved.
Open Space Committee – Councilman Sedon reported on the meeting of the Open Space Committee last Thursday, as well as last night’s joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Committee. The survey for the needs analysis for field use will move forward. Survey Monkey was purchased for the Village, which means that other committees will have access to the service which will reduce the cost from $1,800 to $1,000. Councilman Sedon listed the goals of the Open Space Committee, which include raising the local Open Space tax, Schedler property development, and formalizing use for the PSE&G right-of-way. The Committee needs to consider the replacement of a pocket park on South Broad Street because this will hold up the receipt of grant money currently owed relative to Habernickel Park and Schedler Park.
Citizens Safety Advisory Committee – Councilman Sedon stated that the Citizens Safety Advisory Committee met last Thursday. The Committee recommended that independent firms specializing in traffic analysis, highway safety, parking, access, queuing analysis, and pedestrian safety be retained to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents in the Schedler Park neighborhood.
Councilman Sedon reported that he participated in an eight-hour course of core training offered by the New Jersey Shade Tree Federation. He learned how to spot and address diseased trees, along with various methods of obtaining grants and funding to deal with tree related issues.
Access Ridgewood – Mayor Aronsohn stated that the annual Ridgewood Disability Awareness Weekend recently took place. It was an extraordinary event, consisting of programs for children and senior citizens, a family party at the Library, a fashion show, a teen dance at Village Hall, along with other activities. Attendance rises annually, and Mayor Aronsohn thanked all who worked on this wonderful program.
Pilgrim Pipeline – Mayor Aronsohn recalled that this proposal came to the Village Council earlier this year. He recommended that the Village Council formally oppose the proposal.
Mayor Aronsohn noted that Doug Dittrick, a former Ridgewood resident, was recently honored by the Christian Healthcare Center Foundation, and was awarded the David Bolger Public Service Award tonight.
Mayor Aronsohn mentioned that Jeff Surenian will speak at the next Village Council meeting. He thanked Councilwoman Hauck for making these arrangements. He stated Mr. Surenian gave a clear, concise, and informative session about affordable housing to the Northwest Bergen County Mayors Association two years ago.
Planning Board & HPC- Mayor Aronsohn reported on the favorable courtesy review of the parking deck proposal. Vincent Parrillo of the HPC attended and indicated support for the project. Councilwoman Knudsen interjected that there was no indication that the project was being approved or that a Letter to the Editor would be written urging residents to vote in favor of the parking deck. She repeated that the HPC never endorsed or approved any plans, project or authorized anyone to write a letter urging individuals to vote yes on the parking deck. Mayor Aronsohn commented that in his opinion, the letter written by Mr. Parrillo captured the conversation that took place.
Mayor Aronsohn thanked Councilman Pucciarelli for his work with the Ridgewood Arts Council (RAC). He added that the RAC and potential RAC Foundation members are getting off to a great start.
7. PUBLIC COMMENTS
Mayor Aronsohn asked for additional comments from the public.
Boyd Loving, 342 South Irving Street, spoke about the parking garage, and asked if raising parking fees and extending the hours until 9:00 P.M. would price the CBD in Ridgewood out of the market. He questioned whether the Village could really bring this project in on target, and he recalled that the final construction costs for Village Hall were much higher than anticipated. Mr. Loving said that he is not confident, and pointed out the fact that there was a 30% cost overrun relative to the ramps at Graydon Pool. He indicated that he does not support the parking deck proposal; however, if it goes forward, the residents need to know exact costs, and not estimates.
Mr. Loving stated that the Letter to the Editor from Mr. Parrillo about something that didn’t happen is at the Historic Preservation Committee meeting gross misconduct and unacceptable.
Isabella Altano, 656 Kingsbridge Lane, said that she is the Planning Board liaison to the HPC. She confirmed that there was no approval of the parking deck plan by the HPC. She added that the HPC has no authority to approve this plan.
Ms. Altano stated that she worked with Ms. Sonenfeld and Ms. Fricke on the grant application to stabilize the Zabriskie-Schedler house. She was not aware of the concurrent grant application for the field, and she does not think the two grant applications should go together. The Open Space Committee’s recommendations have nothing to do with Phase One at the Schedler property, and questions relative to the necessity of a 90-foot field are being raised. She thinks the process has been rushed, and they need to step back, review the situation, and change the language of the resolution if necessary. She hopes to work together for a sensible and rational conclusion.
Patricia Infantino, 6 Betty Court, pointed out that the RBSA was promised a replacement for the 90-foot baseball field they lost at Benjamin Franklin Middle School; however, the location of that field was not promised to be Schedler Park. She is disappointed that the Village Council did not approve the amendment of the language to the resolution because it is coming prior to the completion of the field analysis. The Village Council should have listened to public comment and input before the resolution was approved.
An inaudible individual pointed out that exercise along a polluted highway is particularly harmful to your health. He suggested that Councilmembers research this fact by means of a Google search. He suggested that the Schedler property remain as is, and not be developed because it is the only green area left in the Village.
Jacqueline Hone, 30 Carriage Lane, referred to the promise of a 90-foot field that was made to the RBSA. She asked why the Village Council approved resolution #15-257 if they don’t care, as was indicated earlier tonight. The 90-foot field appears to be a done deal, and this is an instance of bad government, which has turned neighbor against neighbor. Ms. Hone questioned how an active park became a baseball field, and she wondered how many of the 25,000 residents of Ridgewood play baseball. There would be no questions relative to the proposal if the proper studies were done by professionals.
Ms. Hone stated that at no time should public land be promised to a small group in the Village. She recommended that a committee be formed to review expert reports, and to come to a conclusion.
Ms. Hone referred to the house and stated that the roof is about to cave in. The Village needs to address this negligent situation. She recommended that everything pertaining to this property be stopped, and she said she would be happy to share all the information she has with the Village.
Anne Loving, 342 South Irving Street, said that the questions she asked several hours ago still have not been addressed. She reiterated that emails sent by Mayor Aronsohn using words such as “we” and “us” indicate that they are coming from the entire Village Council, and not one individual. Mayor Aronsohn’s personal email account should be subject to an OPRA request in the spirit of open public records.
Ms. Loving referred to the letter sent by Vincent Parrillo, which indicated that the entire membership of the HPC supports the parking garage. She said that this is another example of misrepresentation, and represents a possible manipulation of the upcoming referendum on the parking garage.
Councilman Pucciarelli explained that he asked Mr. Parrillo for his opinion on the design of the parking garage. Mr. Parrillo indicated he liked the design, and Councilman Pucciarelli suggested that Mr. Parrillo write a letter noting his support, which Mr. Parrillo volunteered to do.
Paul D’Arpa, 574 Racetrack Road, said that a smaller baseball field will probably not affect the number of trees that will be removed from the Schedler property. There have been several neighborhood meetings, and the general feeling is that the neighborhood is somewhat flexible. Residents are not opposed to the field, but there are concerns relative to the concession stand, traffic, and out of towners participating in tournaments. Mr. D’Arpa stated that he has spoken to one of the representatives of a concerned group of citizens in the Habernickel area, who indicated that his group had several meetings with Village officials, including the Mayor at the time. These meetings were amicable with good communications and he asked why meetings of this type couldn’t take place regarding the Schedler property. Mr. D’Arpa said that Phase One at the Schedler property shouldn’t take place until the plans for Phase Two and Phase Three are made public.
Don Delzio, 636 Upper Boulevard, said that not revisiting or revising the resolution is the right thing to do. He agreed with Councilman Pucciarelli that this is a 30-foot problem, and suggested that the house be removed from the property. Removal of the house would preserve a large block of trees along Route 17.
Doreen Regina, 540 Bennington Terrace, said that this evening the Village Council had the opportunity to revise the resolution. It appears inevitable that a field will be placed on the property, and she asked Councilmembers to revise the resolution by omitting the size of the field from the resolution. She is disappointed because the studies should have been done before the resolution was passed, and the two sides are now further apart. Ms. Regina asked who would be using the field.
Ms. Sonenfeld stated that she finds the attacks by the public on members of Village staff to be upsetting, and she called for this behavior to stop.
Tim Cronin, Director of Parks and Recreation, stated that the athletic director at the High School would decide who uses the field. Children would have to be bused from the high school in order to use this field which does not make sense to him; however, it would be a Board of Education decision.
Mayor Aronsohn referred to the rewording of the resolution, and said that the Village Council needs to revisit a lot of issues. Councilman Pucciarelli said that the RBSA has the expectation of a 90-foot field, and the neighborhood has an expectation of a park. This issue is far from over and these two problems must be solved.
Mayor Aronsohn spoke about Vincent Parrillo, who he described as a person of outstanding character and integrity. Regarding Ms. Sonenfeld’s comments on Village staff, he noted that these people work hard and deserve respect. Mayor Aronsohn stated that Blais Brancheau, the Village Planner, has been with the Village for twenty-five years, and has done an extraordinary job under difficult circumstances. People can disagree with him but they should respect the work he has done.
Councilwoman Knudsen said that no one’s character is being criticized. As Council liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), she attended the HPC meeting, and what was described in the letter from Mr. Parrillo did not occur. She encouraged anyone interested in exactly what happened to listen to the audio recording of the meeting. The HPC did not discuss writing a letter to the editor urging anyone to vote yes. Mayor Aronsohn referred to the letter from Mr. Parrillo, and pointed out that the letter did not say the HPC approved anything.
Councilwoman Hauck commented that good government goes hand in hand with good citizenship. She has been dismayed by some of the public testimony and allegations made during this eight-hour meeting. She is upset by the intimation that Mr. Parrillo is not correctly characterizing the results of the HPC meeting, and she doesn’t understand why Mayor Aronsohn is involved.
Councilwoman Hauck referred to Mr. Loving’s comments on Mr. Rooney’s calculations relative to the cost of the parking garage. Mr. Loving accused Mr. Rooney of pulling numbers out of thin air. Councilwoman Hauck said that the analysis shows the results of various rates over various hours of operation and how that would yield in the system-wide revenue that would pay down the debt. Mr. Rooney presented charts and graphs demonstrating different scenarios, which have been validated and supplemented by the Financial Advisory Committee.
Councilwoman Hauck referred to Councilman Sedon’s comment about requesting information from Village staff that was never received. She said that it often takes two or three attempts for information because research sometimes requires in depth studies. She didn’t think that Councilman Sedon felt he was being disrespected or that Village staff were being dismissive. Councilwoman Hauck added that she finds allegation from members of the public to be disheartening.
Councilman Sedon commented that he found the majority of the Open Space Committee to disagree with the idea of expanding Veterans Field, but he was pleased that Village staff indicated they would do further research. He realizes the staff is busy, and he didn’t expect staff members to redesign Veterans Field. Ms. Sonenfeld asked Councilman Sedon if he thought he was being disrespected. Councilman Sedon reiterated that he realizes the staff is busy and he is capable of reaching out to others.
Ms. Sonenfeld referred to the comment made about the increased parking meter rates and that Ridgewood might price itself out of the market. She said that the Village is using one of the best parking consultants in the country, and they have concluded that the Village will not price itself out of the market. Councilman Pucciarelli stated that an additional comment was made that Mr. Rooney was referring to estimates or assumptions. He pointed out that this is a feasibility study and not a historic financial report.
8. RESOLUTON TO GO INTO CLOSED SESSION
Ms. Mailander read Resolution #15-340 to go into Closed Session as follows:
There being no further business to come before the Village Council, on a motion by Councilwoman Hauck, seconded by Councilman Sedon, and carried unanimously by voice vote, the meeting was adjourned at 1:55 A.M. on October 29, 2015.
Paul S. Aronsohn Mayor
Heather A. Mailander Village Clerk