To the Editor:
On May 7th Berkeley Heights residents will be asked to vote on whether or not Berkeley Aquatic should be granted permission to tap into their sewage system. Many citizens simply believe that they have no interest in this issue; however, this issue impacts all Berkeley Heights citizens by creating an opportunity to turn an unused resource into revenue for the Township. Berkeley Heights has surplus sewer capacity, that is not needed by Berkeley Heights existing sewer users nor by its future users, based on the Township’s own study and its projection of demand based on a 20 year build-out. The BAC connection allows Berkeley Heights residents to transform a very small portion of this untapped resource into a revenue maker, as Berkeley Aquatic would pay connection and user fees to the Township.
There are also those citizens that find this to be a very personal topic. Residents that live in and around Emerson Lane are concerned about the traffic and aesthetic impacts to their neighborhood. Berkeley Aquatic has studied these issues to insure that it can continue to be a good neighbor, while at the same time offering a world-class, state-of-the-art, swim facility. BAC designed a site plan, that insures a visually pleasing layout with minimal
visual impact to neighboring properties. It also commissioned a professional traffic report, which concluded that the vast majority of drivers traveling to and from the new facility will utilize Interstate 78 and Hillcrest Road, rather than the local Emerson Lane.
The simple fact is that a small percentage of the roughly 13,000 Berkeley Heights residents oppose BAC’s move to its new location for no other reason than NIMBY.
However, BAC’s traffic studies show a marginal impact of the flow of cars in and around the area. The property has been designated as R-65, and while this has been debated, this is an area zoned for the kind of recreational use that BAC seeks to build. This area is not designated for Green Acres as some have suggested.
One of the unfortunate situations that has arisen from this issue is the way in which Jim Wood, BAC, BAC families and the new facility sponsors have been depicted. BAC families have been villianized by certain Stop the BAC backers, characterizing our children as juvenile delinquents, parents as out of control drivers and potential child
predators, and the financial sponsors as greedy, money grabbing investors looking to make a quick buck at the expense of Berkeley Heights residents. Nothing could be further from the truth.
BAC has been part of the Berkeley Heights community for 37 years, with the organization coexisting in the town without incident. Jim Wood’s reputation is excellent.
Regardless of whether you are a swimming enthusiast, it is beyond question that Jim has done much more than teach children how to swim, serving as a mentor to many kids and young adults for over 3 decades. BAC families are respectful and courteous to those families that reside around the current facility. As for the facility’s financial supporters, they are parents of swimmers who have benefited from the BAC’s program and hope to further enrich the experience of their swimmers and others from the Berkeley Heights community.
To the issue of sewage. BAC is already expressly granted 1,080 gallons per day under the agreement between Berkeley Heights and Warren. BAC needs that capacity to be increased by 4,920 gallons per day, equal to just 0.3% of capacity (no that is not a typo). Furthermore, the rumor of potential chlorine dumping into the sewer system is erroneous. BAC intends to utilize a perfectly common filtration system already used by other Berkeley Heights pools, like the Lifetime Fitness facility, that neutralizes the chlorine.
What Berekely Heights residents should be aware of is that this upcoming election and the litigation that is being pursued were avoidable. Yes, the ballot initiative will cost tax payers money; however, this was not BAC’s choice, but rather, the Township Council and Mayor’s, who decided to continue to arbitrarily refuse to allow the connection, despite the negative financial impacts to its residents.
BAC swimmers wear the Berkeley name on their caps, representing the town of Berkeley Heights with pride for over 37 years; a fact that will not change should the club move to Warren. BAC athletes learn many life lessons on their journey through the program. It is a shame that they have had to learn that misinformation, and personal agendas sometimes interfere with progress, truth and opportunity. Stop the BAC’s mission, while personal has also become ugly, as this group has chosen to disparage an organization that has only sought to advance the life of youngsters throughout the town and surrounding areas.
Editor's Note: In a previously published version of this letter, we incorrectly stated that Ms. Profaca is from Berkeley Heights. She is from Basking Ridge. We regret the error.