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Citizen Complaints Continue Over Proposed Turfing

DEP makes decision May 10.

Though no decision can be made until the NJ Department of Environmental Protection makes its ruling May 10, debate regarding the proposed synthetic turfing of school-owned fields continued at last night's council meeting.

Stephen Shea, who has been a vocal opponent of the project since its inception, was one of the many citizens on hand voicing their concerns about the proposed turfing of Stevens Field and the RHS stadium, each one speaking for the allowed three minutes.

"The Board of Education is getting a free pass that no regular citizen would get," Shea said afterwards. "The public has not been given adequate time to talk about the deficiencies."

According to Shea, the district's application for renovation was deficient and in violation of several village codes. Among other things, the district's application was allegedly missing a to-scale, properly labeled map of the proposed soil removal site, complete with water drainage plans and property owner's residences.

Superintendent Dr. Daniel Fishbein assured the village council that the BOE had taken all the proper steps up to this point, including submission of all essential documents.

Though Deputy Mayor Keith Killion did make it clear that it was important for all the relevant paperwork to be in order, council showed no indication of any sort of reversal on the project. 

Village attorney Matthew Rogers said that any paperwork inaccuracies would only affect things from a procedural standpoint.

Voting on the resolution will be held through a consent agenda at next week's meeting.

Shea did not seem surprised by the proceedings. "This project has always been steamrolled through on a political level," he said.

After reviewing resident concerns, the Planning Board approved the district's request for major soils permit April 20, receiving only one nay vote from Albert Puccarelli on the Stevens permit. Voters originally approved the referendum in December 2009, with the project calling for synthetic turf, in addition to a new track for Benjamin Franklin Middle School. The projects would be paid for through debt service.

The project was originally recommended by Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser, who feels that the storm water catch basin will increase capacity for handling floods in the area as a result of the turfing. Concerns about increased flooding from the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook had been an initial sticking point for residents around the proposed areas.

Rutishauser's only concern about the project was coordinating a timeline for the soil removal between the police department, the school board and his office.

The DEP will make its decision May 10. If DEP rejects the proposal, council may remove it from its agenda.

While that would no doubt be a win for the project's opponents, some are skeptical of such a possibility. Jerry Rossi, who has attended all four meetings regarding the issue, refers to the turfing as a "rule and appeal" situation. Still, it seems unlikely that opposition for this proposed soil permit will go away.

"Every chance we get, we're going to get our three minutes," Rossi said.

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