Are you aware of Berkeley's Aquatic's proposal to build a new 50,000 square foot aquatic center just off Horseshoe Road on Watchung Way, that will rise 60 feet above Horseshoe Road?
Whether or not you have children or enjoy swimming yourself, you need to understand what is being proposed for our neighborhood and what it will mean for increased traffic on Horseshoe Road, a road already congested by baseball and soccer games for nine months of the year. This building will change our neighborhood, a residential neighborhood. It will affect water runoff after heavy rains increasing the potential for more wet basements and soggy yards. How is it that an area partially designated as "wetlands" is now suited to house a structure of this magnitude? Also, is it safe or wise to put up a metal building, full of water, that close to the high tension wires? I would not want my kids to swim in that environment. If the zoning laws are changed to accommodate this structure, what will be next? Ultimately, it is those who live in its immediate path that must become informed and stop this before it goes any further.
The Board of Adjustment is now considering Berkeley Aquatic's proposal to build a 50,000 square foot metal facility with a parking lot to accommodate 194 cars. Since there isn't the space available to build a parking lot the size required for this structure, Berkeley Aquatic is working our a "deal" with the county for overflow parking to be provided by using Runnells Hospital lots! There will be only one way in and out of the facility. What happens if there is an emergency? Will emergency vehicles have adequate access to the facility?
In testimony before the Board of Adjustment on February 11th, Berkeley Aquatic's owner acknowledged that approximately 800 athletes will be using the facility daily. The facility will be open at 5:30 am and close at "10:00" pm approximately, as well as being open on Sundays. The facility will also be used for weekend "meets"; this will expand to a national level, as well. I am very concerned that the integrity of the neighborhood is being compromised and for what purpose?
Don't get me wrong, I am very supportive of every athletic opportunity our town can provide for the children of the community. I am not opposed to improving the opportunities available to the children, but this facility is not primarily for our community, nor do I believe it should be put in a residential area.
The facilities they have are already sufficient to meet the needs of Berkeley Heights. This expansion is designed to reach out to and service a population from a wider geographic area. This expansion is to build a bigger business, bringing in more people for events that the owner readily admits will be national in scope. Berkeley Aquatic is a private - for profit club - that comes at our expense; yours and mine! Second, I am concerned what filling in the catch basin below Runnells will mean for homeowners in this area. We already have problems with wet basements after excessive rains, so I cannot believe this will do anything but exacerbate the problem. Yes, I know their experts will tell us otherwise (that is what they are being paid to do), but why is it that this project has been 3 years in the making yet we are given so little notice (10 days) to provide our input (I suspect many of you reading this may not know about it at all).
You need to know the County - current owners of the land - apparently approached Berkeley Aquatic asking them if they would be interested in this parcel of land. I have asked, did the county open the sale of this land to competitive bidding? If not why?
Third, we will have to see this metal building structure raising 60 feet in height from Horseshoe Road. The actual height is 42 feet in height but given the typography of the land it will appear taller. Along with the facility, there will be lights in the parking lots that will spill over into neighbor yards on Sutton and Horseshoe Roads. What will this do to the value of property in the neighborhood? This building will not only be visible to the houses on Horseshoe, the homes on Sutton will also be impacted.
Please come to the next 2 hearings on March 11th and 15th in the Berkeley Heights Municipal courtroom. We need to stand together and with one voice to make it clear to our elected officials and the community folk who serve on the Board of Adjustment that we do not want this facility in our back yards.
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