We write to you as we sit and look out our back window through the wetlands in our yard and onto the track and football field.
Recently, we learned about the Fields of Dreams initiative, The proposed project would see the football field re-done with artificial turf, two lanes added to the existing six-lane track and lights installed. It would mean that the high school field would be opened for public use with extended hours for multiple sports.
We fear it will have a negative impact on our property.
As local residents, we’re all for the improvement of school facilities. We support our high school teams. However, we don’t want our yard opened up to public use, leading to extended periods of light and noise—to the detriment of the natural environment.
At the heart of this initiative is the fact that we feel open space funds are being used disingenuously. Parsippany only has an “Open Space and Recreation Plan,” but it does not have rules and regulations to outline how money should and shouldn’t be spent.
For example, Morris County’s Open Space Trust Fund not only has an active plan of projects and initiatives, but also has rules and regulations for funding them. In the county's rules document, an ineligible open space acquisition is “development costs such as construction of ball fields, tennis courts, roads, etc.”
We’ve called Parsippany government to request a copy of rules and regulations to accompany the plan we were given, but were told none exist.
We have several areas of concern. They include, but are not limited to:
- The artificial turf to be used on the field will be less than 200 feet from wetlands in our yard. Page 4 of the November 2010 Open Space and Recreation draft states, “An important local benefit of preserving open space is its impact on storm water runoff. When natural conditions change because of development or land use alterations, the water cycle changes dramatically. As land is covered with more impervious surface, larger quantities of run-off, traveling faster, carry more pollutants from the pavement to our waterways.” Before any such initiative can even be presented as feasible, we’d require a water run-off survey and report.
- The November 2010 Open Space and Recreation draft doesn’t even mention Field of Dreams/Parsippany Hills High School. On page 37, the recommendation for the “Enhancement of Existing Parks” only cites Bevacqua Tract (Block 421 Lots 25.02 and 26), and pages 38-51, which outline “Land Acquisition/Preservation Strategy,” bear no mention either. So we’re wondering how something could be acted or voted on if it’s not part of a written plan, draft form or not.
- When we purchased our home, we knew we were close to the high school and understood that during football season on weekends, we’d hear the noise from the games. That was OK and would preserve our summer peace and quiet. Public use would force light and noise on us year round, infringing on our rights.
As per NJAC 7:29-1.2, “Continuous airborne sound which has a sound level in excess of 65dBA is not allowed between the hours of 7am-10pm. After 10pm the acceptable level drops to 50dBA."
To put that in perspective, a running refrigerator has a sound level at approximately 50dBA.
Aside from the current weekend football games, played in daylight during a confined season, we have stayed within these noise limits in the neighborhood. Should there be year-round use for additional sports during extended timeframes, the noise levels will certainly violate this code.
To date, there’s been nothing from the town on how our leaders will address this. (And we haven't even gotten into light pollution and environmental impact measures).
The most troubling part of the whole issue is that the town and other related organizations seem to be going through with this without a site plan. We understand there are semantics and opinions flying around, and a vote had been conducted back in 2006, but school land shouldn’t be touched or transferred without studying potential environmental issues including pollution (noise and light), impact to wetlands and traffic.
A revised draft plan ought to be published and distributed to include this initiative, and a formal presentation of a site plan needs to be made to those who live within hundreds of feet of the site.
Bottom line, in hearing and reading about the project, it seems like it's set in stone and moving along. But on paper, there has been very little done to solidify the plan. That is of great concern, and is exactly why local residents, including us, want to press for details and documentation.
If the Fields of Dreams initiative truly is so much of a "win-win for all" that its supporters and leaders keep publicizing and vocalizing, we'd like to hear those people address our points above.
Looking forward to the where we can hopefully get some answers.
TJ and Kristen Ritter