Attorney for Madison Neighbors Conducts Lengthy Questioning on Future Student Activities at Expanded Chatham Day School

CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - For about two hours at Thursday evening’s meeting of the Chatham Township Board of Adjustment Robert Simon, the attorney for Madison residents opposed to the Chatham Day School’s expansion project, questioned School Head Pamela Fiander about possible future activities at the school and their impact on area noise levels.

The school is seeking a number of variances in township steep slope requirements, tree removal regulations and parking restrictions in connection with a project to remediate contaminated soil on the property and construct a number of new buildings.

Mr. Simon, in his questioning, focused chiefly on the 100-foot building setback on the northern section of the property facing Peachtree Lane in Madison, where his clients live.

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Fiander said it was possible for up to 88 children from the school to be involved in various activities for up to 160 minutes per day both in the 100-foot setback area and in the northern part of the sideyard area of the property bordered by Shunpike Road and Peachtree Lane.

Based on current activities at the school, she said about 58 students could be involved in recess at the existing tennis courts on the site and physical education classes north of the tennis courts closer to the Madison border.

In addition, she said, when the new multipurpose room is completed near the northern end of the property as part of the expansion project, as much as 30 students could dine at picnic tables on the patio of the multipurpose room.

Students also might be taken on walks by faculty members along the 100-foot setback, she said.

At any time, the school head added, the children involved in the activities could be supervised by about seven staff members.

However, Simon’s attempt to get Fiander to specifically rule in or out specific future activities in the setback, such as constructing a formal walking path for students, drew both a noncommittal answer from her and objections from school attorney, Stephen Schaefer.

Fiander said she could not determine whether a walking trail would be constructed without first speaking to the school’s Board of Trustees.

Schaefer objected to Simon’s line of questioning, claiming the school’s application before the Board of Adjustment had to do with steep slope, parking and other variances and it was not fair to try to pin down the school on future activities it could not predict.

He feared if the school were to add activities in the future that it does not anticipate today someone would claim it violated the terms of any ruling on its current application by the zoning board.

Simon, on the other hand, said it was in the purview of hearings on conditional use variances, which the school is seeking, for the Board of Adjustment to take into consideration potential detriments to neighborhoods surrounding the school.

Responding to board member, Karl Schmidt, however, Fiander did say that the expansion could result in more intensive uses of the northern setback area by the school’s students.

Schaefer appealed to board Chairman Lawrence Dalziel to limit Simon’s questioning to enable him to get a fair hearing for his clients without taking up an inordinate amount of time on each witness.

Simon replied he needed enough time to ask all relevant questions when cross examining Schaefer’s witnesses.

Dalziel cautioned him, however, to focus his questions more and avoid going over the same topics several times, as a few of the board members said he had.

The hearing on the Chatham Day School matter is scheduled to continue on Thursday, November 18, with Simon’s continued cross examination of Fiander and his possible questioning of the school’s acoustical engineer.

Simon also is expected to present his own experts to counter those called by the school. 

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