CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough Engineer Vince DeNave summed up the conundrum before Chatham residents and council members when it comes to the prospect of turning Hillside Avenue into a Cul-de-sac: "Where are the cars going to go?"

Chatham Township's move to rezone the 30-acre Dixiedale Farm property from single-family to multi-family homes has ignited a push-back reaction from Chatham Borough residents of Hillside Avenue. A discussion on the subject was part of the agenda at the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night.

The discussion about how to deal with the inevitable development of Dixiedale has focused on turning Hillside Avenue into a dead end or a Cul-de-sac at the border between the towns near Woods Lane.

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"My only concern is the 8,900 cars per week that travel on Hillside Avenue towards River," DeNave said. "Two-thirds of the cars are going in that direction (towards the township). My concern is what's going to happen. What does that do to Watchung, Lackawanna. We have to look at the impacts of that." 

According to DeNave, there are two issues with turning Hillside Avenue into a dead end or Cul-de-sac: Traffic created by the new development and current traffic on the road.

"(Hillside is) very narrow in parts, there are 90-degree bends in the roadway," DeNave said. "You can't widen it without significant expense. There are certainly challenges. A Cul-de-sac sounds great until you consider, where are the cars going to go?"

Hillside resident John Soriano suggested making Hillside Avenue a one-way street as another option in solving the anticipated traffic problems the new development could create. Council member Jim Lonergan expressed optimism about the suggestion, which would make it a one-way street similar to the way Washington Avenue is currently designated as one-way above Watchung Avenue.

Peter Druhot, a resident of Willow Street, warned that making Hillside Avenue into a Cul-de-sac would push the traffic onto other streets off of Hillside.

"I don't want to solve one problem and create three more," Druhot said. 

DeNave announced that the planner for the developers of Dixiedale Farm, Mike Tobia, was willing to meet with Chatham Borough residents and a sitdown could be set up in the next week.

"They are willing to meet with us, but they want to make the meeting productive," DeNave said. "They've heard the residents' concerns. I know that they have been looking into making an interior road to River (Road) and they don't think it is going to be feasible. Their concern was that it's going to be less productive if they keep hearing the same things over and over. I think we're at the point now where some representation from residents, without having this many residents, would be better."

Tobia has given two presentations on the "conceptual plan," one at a Chatham Township Planning Board meeting and another at a Chatham Township Committee meeting before any ordinances were introduced. At both presentations, Tobia answered questions from the public.

Because the rezoning is "inconsistent" with Chatham Township's Master Plan, the Chatham Township Committee needs a supermajority vote (at least 4-1) to adopt the rezoning ordinance for Dixiedale Farm at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Mayor Bruce Harris and attorney James Lott report on the process for turning a road into a cul-de-sac

Council member Jim Lonergan and Woods Lane resident Regina Degnan discuss the plan by Chatham Township to rezone Dixiedale Farm to multi-family zoning

Council member Peter Hoffman talks about his communication with the Chatham Township Committee