To the Editor:
Dear Mayor Kelly and Chatham Township Committee members,
Aside from college, I have lived on River Road my entire life. I grew up and still live in the same house on River Road. It was built by Rustem Bey, the first police chief of Chatham Township.
I can tell you about the time a sheep from the farm next door took shelter in our garage and wouldn’t leave. I can tell you about the long-eared owl that was in our yard a few years ago. It is a threatened species in New Jersey. The founder of the Raptor Trust came to see it, as did people who drove 500 miles for that privilege. Every night the owl would fly off to hunt in the Great Swamp, where my mother appears in a picture on the wall at the Helen Fenske Center commemorating the fight against the Jetport.
I can tell you about the other 70 species of birds I have seen in my yard. And about the mammals, too – bears, raccoons, opossums, skunks, a weasel, bats, foxes, coyotes, flying squirrels – I have photographs of them all. This area of the mountain is an environmentally sensitive upland hardwood forest and is a very important wildlife corridor.
If the land on River Road is developed, this corridor will be shut off.
During Hurricane Sandy, an electrician had to cut the power line to our house as the water level in our basement approached the fuse box. Now I use a generator and four sump pumps to keep the water out of my house during heavy rains. No construction is currently allowed on this hill, for very good reason.
Not long ago, my family and I were waiting in line to march in the July 4th parade. We introduced ourselves to a couple who had recently arrived in town. They said they had chosen Chatham because their friends had moved here and had told them that it was perfect, that “it was just like Oz.” On that day, with the summer sunlight filtering through the trees, it did look like the Emerald City. We marched in the parade and then watched the clown firemen light the little house on fire at the intersection of Fairmount and Main, just like my father and I had watched it more than 50 years ago.
My question to the Chatham Township government is this: Will this be the marvelous land of Oz, or the land where we are told to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?
Some people say that the town has not done its job. On the contrary, I think it did do its job, and correctly so. The development of the Meyersville site into affordable housing is not dependent upon the construction of a new police station or senior citizen housing, or anything else. After three years of work, when the town announced that Meyersville was the best site and that River Road was found unsuitable, that was, and is still, the correct decision, for everyone.
Chatham Township High School, Class of 1976