Government

Columbia Middle School Packed for League of Women Voters Debate on Berkeley Aquatic Center

d9c2d09c4cd516b60b7a_BH_LWV_4-24-13_001.JPG
Large crowd packs the Columbia Middle School Auditorium for the panel discussion on the Berkeley Aquatic Center. Credits: Liz Keill
22490e23cbb186a7a8db_BH_LWV_4-24-13_005.JPG
Panelists Peter Bavoso and Councilman Robert Woodruff talk to residents following the meeting. Credits: Liz Keill
d937d26e6625c38f8858_BH_LWV_4-24-13_007.JPG
Jim Wood of the Berkeley Aquatic Center fielded questions. Credits: Liz Keill
d9c2d09c4cd516b60b7a_BH_LWV_4-24-13_001.JPG
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – A major crowd filled the auditorium at the Columbia Middle School on Wednesday, April 24, to listen and question three panelists regarding the proposed move of the Berkeley Aquatics Center (BAC) to a new location just over the border in Warren.
 
The League of Women Voters of Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit sponsored the discussion, which included panelists Robert Woodruff, a township councilman; Jim Wood, representing the BAC, and Peter Bavoso, speaking for residents on Emerson Lane, Hillcrest and other nearby streets.
 
 
At issue were the impact on the township’s sewer system, the effect on residential homes and traffic. Wood said the sewage treatment would be the same as that for Lifetime Fitness, with chlorine removed before it enters the system. The development would require 17 connections and an increase flow for a total of 6,000 gallons per day. Currently, there are three connections with a total flow of 1,080 gallons per day.

Bavoso recalled moving into “the best block in Berkeley Heights” a number of years ago, the sense of community and the winding lane he and his family live on. “We didn’t expect to see a 51,000 square foot monstrosity popping up,” he said of the proposed aquatic center.  Plans call for a parking lot as well, with over 200 parking spaces, according to information from the Stop the BAC Committee. He said most of the supporters of the plan live in other communities and that the township council had voted a sewer agreement with Warren down twice.

“Why change an existing contract for a third party private entity?” Councilman Woodruff asked. Once those changes are made, he said, Berkeley Heights would have no recourse. “It’s not about the swim meet next year. It’s about your pocketbook,” he said of the tax benefit that would go to Warren.

 
But Jim Wood, who was a swim coach at BAC in 1972, said, “We give back to the community.”  He noted how many children and adults the center serves and that drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1 to 4.The facility is open to the public, for just $4 a visit, with no membership fees. At this point, he said, the center has run out of space. The new facility would be built on 25 acres of land, 10 of it reserved for fields and woods and the intention is to move the building as far back as possible. He said the area is a permitted use, not just for houses, but for churches, temples, flea markets and other domestic structures. The entrance to Emerson Lane would be closed, he said. If traffic becomes an issue, the center would pay for a police presence.  
 
Bavoso said the traffic study was done on a holiday weekend, when traffic is light, and it was before the nearby Warren development had been built. “They never took into consideration that Emerson Lane would be part of this,” he said.
 
Wood said they had looked at 50 pieces of property, including many in Berkeley Heights, but they all had problems, such as environmental issues or swamp land. He added that the current proposal would actually keep traffic away from streets in Berkeley Heights, since the location is right off Route 78.
 
Although Woodruff represented the opposition, he said, “We would like to keep them In Berkeley Heights.” He added that BAC had been a good neighbor for many years and asked about property near Runnells, which had also been considered. “We’re not trying to push them out of town,” he said. “This was a business decision.  I understand that. Now, we have to do what is best for Berkeley Heights.”
 
In his closing remarks, Bavoso said, “I appreciate Jim and what he’s done for the kids. But think about your neighbors. This is a mega, mega facility. Just stand out there and realize it will be the size of Walmart or Giants Stadium.”
 
Woodruff said, “The people of Berkeley Heights elected us to make decisions in their best interest. The implications down the road are significant in how we deal with other towns. We’re going to live through this again; it’s not anti-BAC, it’s pro Berkeley Heights.”
 
Wood said he was confident that, when people do their research and due diligence, “You will make the right decision, whatever that is.”
 
It was clear that both Wood and his opponents drew strong applause from the audience. The public forum will be broadcast on Comcast 34/FIOS 47, beginning Monday, April 29 at 9 a.m. with a final viewing Sunday, May 5, at 10 p.m. The vote is on Tuesday, May 7.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Health Alert from Borough of Warchung

April 22, 2018

A kitten from a colony of free-roaming cats in an isolated area in the vicinity of New Providence Road was recently found deceased. Testing revealed that the kitten was infected by rabies. All known exposures to humans have been addressed and there are no known exposures to resident pets. If anyone has knowledge of exposures to cats in this area please notify the health department at ...

Students become composers, lyricists, writers in Musical Theater Company

BERKELEY HEIGHTS—Over the past few months, students in the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) Musical Theater Company have been writing their own full length musical using stories from the Grimm Brothers to be showcased in two performances on June 9 in Wharton’s black box theatre. With the help of instructors Timothy Maureen Cole and David Seamon, the cast is using fairy ...

Tickets On Sale Now for “An Evening Of Shining Stars” at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway on May 4

RAHWAY, NJ - One of the area's most anticipated events - "An Evening of Shining Stars" - featuring members of the special needs community from Cranford and around Union County will take place 7 p.m. Friday, May ...

Politics IS Government in Union County

April 22, 2018

After Bruce Patrson of Garwood was stopped from speaking at the Union County freeholder meeting of March 22 regarding the politics behind refusing to give the party line to a sitting freeholder I thought this brazen suppression of free speech could not go unanswered. A the the April 19 meeting I answered with these comments.

After ten years of following government in Union County I conclude ...

Thank You, St. Joseph's Volunteers

Thank You from St. Joseph Social Service Center

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, we would like to express our gratitude to the countless volunteers that serve the poor and homeless at St. Joseph Social Service Center in Elizabeth (http://www.sjeliz.org).  Whether you make a sandwich, collect toiletries, tutor in the job program, make soup, wrap Christmas gifts, donate food, ...

New Providence Borough Council to Cultivate Relationships with County Officials

April 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Councilman Robert Robinson touted the importance of personal relationships with Union County representatives at the Monday, April 9 council meeting.

Union County Freeholders Angel Estrada and Bette Jane Kowalski attended the Street Smart campaign kick-off event prior to the meeting providing the council members with the opportunity to chat face-to-face with the two ...

Student Led #Rally4 Action to Protest Gun Violence Held Friday in Springfield

April 21, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Fueled partially by their disappointment that students were not allowed to leave school for the nationwide student protest last month, student leaders planned a rally Friday on the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine massacre in Colorado. At 4:30 p.m., students, parents, families, community members met at Chisholm Community Center to register voters, make ...

Student Led #Rally4 Action to Protest Gun Violence Held Friday in Springfield

April 21, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - Fueled partially by their disappointment that students were not allowed to leave school for the nationwide student protest last month, student leaders planned a rally Friday on the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine massacre in Colorado. At 4:30 p.m., students, parents, families, community members met at Chisholm Community Center to register voters, make ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

17 Kent Place Boulevard, Summit

Self-Care Event

Health & Wellness

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

17 Kent Place Boulevard, Summit

Self-Care Event

Health & Wellness

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Sheep to Shawl Festival

Other

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Sheep to Shawl Festival

Education Other

Sun, April 22, 2:00 PM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Celebrate National Poetry Month @NPML

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_ce82ab1b85dfc5de34a1_wipa_logo

Sun, April 22, 3:00 PM

Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, Berkeley Heights

Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts ...

Arts & Entertainment