BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Plans by the Summit YMCA to build a new outdoor pool and a 32,000+ square-foot building at the site of the Community Pool on Locust Avenue are moving ahead.

It took a little more than two hours Wednesday night for the applicants to receive preliminary and final site plan approval from the planning board for the new building. During the course of the hearing, officials learned construction on the new pool should begin almost as soon as the old one is closed this year, with a goal of pouring concrete before winter comes, so it can cure. That will allow the pool to open next year, at the end of May, if all goes well.

Mayor Robert Woodruff, who sits on the planning board, noted that in the original agreement was “the Y had six years to build a brand-new pool,” which led many to assume that would happen at the end of that period. “Now we are doing it at the front end of the lease agreement.”

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Construction on the new building will be well underway by the time the pool opens, which could present some problems, but “whatever inconvenience was going to present itself” either in six years of this year, will be met, said Woodruff.

While looking at the site from Locust Avenue, the Community Pool will be located on the right-hand side of the site, while the two-story building will be in the center of the site, and the bulk of the parking on the left, with some parking in the front of the building.

The slopes from Locust up to the building and pool will be adjusted – possibly by a short retaining wall – with steps going up to the parking area from Locust. According to the site plan presented at the meeting, there will be two full-service driveways, one into the larger parking lot, at the left side of the lot, and the second on the far end of the front parking area.  A total of 195 parking places will be included, which is four more than currently on the site.

President and CEO of the Summit Area YMCA Paul Kieltyka said the building will have a childcare center, a wellness center, multipurpose rooms and a full-size gymnasium, similar to one found at a high school. “We need to share our programs with others,” said Kieltyka, and it is expected that youth sports from Berkeley Heights Recreation and Berkeley Heights PAL will be able to use the YMCA’s facilities in Berkeley Heights. Officials from the YMCA,  Rec and PAL are having “promising conversations on how to use and share these spaces,” he said.

The Berkeley Heights Branch of the YMCA will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday; from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Kieltyka said he expected the facility’s busiest times would be between 7 and 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. – they tend to “coincide with rush hour times.”  The pool will continue to be a dawn to dusk operation, as it is now.

Membership is expected to run to about 4,500 members – which translated to 3,000 membership units, with a unit being a family or a single person.

Kieltyka said the facility would operate a summer camp, provide after school care, either on site or at the schools, as it does now, and day care. 

Asked by a resident of Timber drive “where will the children come from,” Kieltyka said “two-thirds of our members come from Berkeley Heights, New Providence,” with others coming from Gillette and Chatham – those are not necessarily children, he noted.

Licensed Professional Engineer Stephen Schwartz testified that there will be all new LED light fixtures in and outside of the facility and a substantial amount of new landscaping. The parking in front of the YMCA will be “above the street level and almost level” with the building’s entrance. Parking on the Timber side of the site will be “further away than it currently is, with more buffering.”

Membership in the YMCA is not required for pool members, so those who enter the pool who are not members will enter through the bath house entrance, which is a secured entrance.

Andrew Adornato, a principal with USA Architects, described the building as a two-story building with a contemporary style exterior faced with silver-colored metal panels. While it is not LEED certified, there will be a lot of windows on the building which will allow natural light to come in. The main entrance will be faced with wood.

On the second floor there will be studios which will be multipurpose rooms – accommodating yoga, dancing, and other classes. There will be a wellness center with free weights, bicycles, treadmills, etc. available to members.

The pool itself will be a 50-meters by 25 meters. There will be two playgrounds – one for children under the age of six and another for youngsters six to 12 years old.  There will be vending machines on site, but no food service. The fence around the pool will not be to code and “not chain link,” said Adornato.

Comments from two members of the public focused on

·         Will the traffic to and from the site impact Timber Drive? – There should be no significant impact.

·         Can traffic from the YMCA be prevented from heading towards Timber Drive? No, you can’t prevent YMCA members from driving directly to their neighborhood.

·         Will the exterior lighting on the YMCA impact the Timber neighborhood, especially in the early mornings? – It should not.

·         Is there sufficient electrical service to the site? – Yes.  

The board attorney read a resolution to approve the preliminary and final site plans for the new facility with a number of conditions – in particular to comply with memos from the Fire Department, Sewer Department, and other agencies; direct all construction traffic to Snyder Avenue; provide letters that service will be provided to the site from various utilities; and the temporary signage issue be resolved with the zoning officer.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the motion to grant preliminary and final site plan approval. The resolution will be memorialized at another meeting of the board.

The new facility is expected to be open in early 2020. In the meantime, the community pool is open for the summer under the management of the YMCA and the Springfield Avenue branch of the Summit Area YMCA will continue to serve the community.