Open Letter to the Summit Planning and Zoning Boards

Oratory Preparatory School has filed plans to tear down the historic Newman Hall and build a 48,000 sq ft building in roughly the same location. I urge the Summit Planning and Zoning Boards to deny the variances needed to enable this.
 
My primary objection is one of scale - it simply is too big for the surrounding community and the lot. For comparison, the proposed building is larger to the recently constructed Union County golf clubhouse in Kenilworth. Summit residents, please take a look at it. The Kenilworth building cannot be missed by anyone passing on the Garden State Parkway around exit 138. The scale is obvious from the Parkway and such a structure would be too large for a residential community in Summit. The clubhouse in Kenilworth is surrounded by the GSP and a 27 hole golf course. The proposed Oratory Prep building in Summit would, if approved, sit in a R-10 residential area. R-10 is the designation of moderate density single-family residential zone and includes homes like mine and about 20 others adjoining the Oratory property. Newman Hall, while larger than the homes surrounding it, was built as a residence and was lived in for many years. The school has identified that the residential building does not fit the needs for a proposed expansion and wishes to demolish the building to build a large sports pavilion incorporating basketball courts, additional classrooms, cafeteria, concession stand and school administration offices. The facility, coupled with turf field (incorporating one of the largest High School soccer fields in NJ), would, if approved, place strain on our neighborhood. The existing school building on Beverly Road, a large turf field and the proposed building, with associated additional parking lot is too much to pack into the space available. It is hard to imagine that it fits any definition of an R-10 neighborhood.
 
In previous presentations to the Planning Board, the current school administration has outlined a modest planned expansion of student numbers. No one doubts that these may be the current plans, but experience and common sense suggests that if the school can accommodate larger numbers, the school will inevitably expand to its capacity. The Planning and Zoning Boards must consider this potential expansion in their consideration. As one member of the Board commented, "Build it and they will come". This is a major concern of the residents, not only with respect to routine school operations, but also in the increased use of these facilities. The proposed 48,000 sq ft building will be costly to build and maintain. This will drive usage by other organizations other than Oratory as the school recoups some of the cost. More game nights, band practices, visiting basketball teams, clinics, traffic, noise and disruption to the community. These are in conflict with the vision of the town's Master Plans for development.
 
It is my opinion that this site expansion is not in the best interest of the community and hence my call on the Planning and Zoning Boards not to grant any variances to our existing codes which would enable its construction.
 
Michael Lusty

 

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