To the Editor:

My husband, Ed Sagendorf Jr. and I, together with our two toddler sons moved to Chatham Township on May 25, 1960.

Our growing family made it necessary to move from our one-bedroom apartment in Summit to a larger living space. My mother was not too happy that her daughter would be moving “in the woods”. Although we would only be 10 minutes away, she feared we would not be able to assimilate to rural and unfamiliar surroundings, but assimilate, we did. This was a dream come true. We loved our spacious yard and welcomed the privacy. Our neighbors were most welcoming, this was going to be our forever home. Forever ended for Ed when he passed away in 2007. Forever is still here for me, although I must admit that my dream home is becoming a nightmare.

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Every day had its surprises and new experiences. Less than a quarter of a mile down the road was a training camp, Madame Bey’s, where world-famous boxers trained. These famous boxers would jog past our house every day and never failed to stop and engage our boys who were fearlessly playing at the end of our rather steep driveway. “Traffic” was a word, not a threat. It was truly God’s country! I loved my River Road. I loved my neighbors. Most of them are still my neighbors. One of the selling points was our realtor’s words describing the location of our soon to be home, “nestled in the Watchung Hills”. We soon found out that when it rained, those hills emptied a fair amount of water on our property. Our neighbors had and still have the same problem. We can deal with what we have, but the thought of 64 apartments built on the slope, creating a bigger problem gives us pause and legitimate concern.

In 1965, we were blessed with another son. Our home had only two bedrooms and one bath. We had to make room for Gary. Eddy and Bobby were 7 and 6 years old by then. We decided to add on to our house. We were committed to staying here forever. Ed became a volunteer firefighter for what was then the Long Hill Volunteer Fire Department, also located on River Road, literally a stone’s throw from our home. Our boys attended the Chatham Township public schools and following their father’s example they all became volunteer firefighters, a combined total of 162 years of service. Ed was also at the service of our community when he owned and operated the Sunoco Station on the corner of Southern Boulevard and Shunpike Road and the Green Village Garage on Green Village Road. Our Township roots run very deep.

My property is one of the two that would be most adversely affected by the affordable housing project since it would be directly in my backyard. Instead of looking out my kitchen window at trees, and wildlife, I will be looking at rows of apartments. There was always a sense of security knowing the woods behind our house would never be developed. No more will I enjoy the freedom and privacy that came with my “nestled in the Watchung Hills” home. The hills would
be inundated with rental apartments. The homes will be occupied by renters, rather than owners who make the fabric of a neighborhood. The Township has irresponsibly identified this location without undertaking any studies regarding the viability and without truly knowing or caring about the impact to either the neighborhood, the environment, nor the property values in an area deemed “undevelopable land” by their own Planning Board. They covertly and quietly steeped this solution on a street with property values already disadvantaged and depressed with septic systems. The hypocrisy and lack of transparency of the Township Committee is stunning and angering.

Carmela Sagendorf

Chatham Township