Chatham Day School May Consider Remediation Plan That Skirts Steep Slopes While Preserving More Trees

CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - Chatham Day School environmental engineer, Barry Skoultchi, on Wednesday night presented a plan to the Chatham Township Board of Adjustment to "carve out" an area that would remain undisturbed during "soil blending" to remediate pesticides in the soil on the school's site. This, according to the engineer, could save an additional 13 trees in the remediation area. That plan, however, may be modified to cause less modification of steep slopes and avoid taking any additional trees in the area.

The alternative approach was suggested by Chatham Township Board of Adjustment Chairman Lawrence Dalziel as the Zoning Board continued its hearing into an application by the school for steep slope and other variances that, if approved, would allow the school to make several renovations to its Shunpike Road site.

Redevelopment plans call for demolition of an abandoned swimming pool and four existing buildings and construction of a gymnasium, dining-area/multi-purpose room, music and arts rooms, and a stage and dining hall with kitchen facilities. A new parking area is also planned for the site.

In addition, to deal with pesticides and "historical fill" left by farming many years ago on the site, the school wants to cover and "blend" clean soil with that containing pesticides and to excavate and remove the "historical fill"—debris apparently buried by farmers when cutting down trees and doing other activities.

At Wednesday night's meeting, Mr. Skoultchi said his blending plan would require bringing about 400 cubic yards of "clean" soil, possibly from construction on the site, to the designated area and creating about a nine-inch grade while disturbing less than 500 square feet of a steep slope of 20 to 25 feet.

Mr. Dalziel, however, said by "carving out" several smaller areas adjacent to the area designated by Mr. Skoultchi the slope could be preserved and no trees need be endangered in that area.

Mr. Skoultchi and Chatham Day School attorney Stephen Schaefer agreed to consider the alternative plan.

In another bit of news concerning the Day School application, Mr. Schaefer said Robert Simon, an attorney for several objectors to the plan, and his clients had met with Chatham Day School representatives and decided not to appear at last night's hearing because they possibly are working out agreements that could lead to withdrawal of the objections.

In the meantime, also at Wednesday's hearing, board members and Township Engineer John Ruschke objected to a plan by the school in which the school would decide at the time the project is undertaken whether several trees in the "historical fill" excavation area near the Shunpike Road property line will be saved.  The Chatham Township officials want the school's plans to delinate which trees will be removed or saved before the Board provides approval for the project. 

Mr. Schaefer said the school also would consider making that change in its plans.

School landscape engineer Bruce John Davies of Parsippany then outlined landscaping concepts proposed for each phase of the project.

He said an existing chain link fence along Peach Tree Lane would be replaced by a solid brown-colored vinyl fence up the area where the school land drops down into a gulley along the street.

The school will seed the entire remediation area and stabilize the soil and plant seeds to accelerate plant growth, he noted.

Five hundred saplings would be planted, including white oak, hickory and American ash.

Seventeen evergreen trees also would be planted along Peach Tree Lane and red maples trees would be planted in the middle of the new parking area, Mr. Davies noted.

About 80 feet of existing forest near Gibbons Place would be preserved, he added, to alternate with meadow grasses.

Both residents and board member, Therese Hough, said that part of the plan would alter the view from Gibbons Place too drastically.

Eventually, the landscape expert replied, the area would divert back to forest.

The board is expected to continue the Chatham Day School hearing at its Thursday, July 15, meeting.

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