RARITAN TWP., NJ – Officials Tuesday night approved the installation of temporary lights at Clover Hill Park.
The request for lighting was made by Greater Flemington Soccer Club. The group leases the 18.6-acre public park on Clover Hill Road from the township, and is responsible for maintaining the park and scheduling use of its fields.
GFSC board member Ira Rosenheim, reading from a prepared statement, said the club has been a “good neighbor for the last eight years” and that he is “not aware of any formal complaints lodged against our organization.” He called the guidelines for use of lights “very reasonable.”
The Township Committee voted unanimously for the approval, which township attorney Jeffrey Lehrer said will only be in effect through the end of this year. It requires the lights to be directed only at the field and allows their use from September through Nov. 1, Mayor Karen Gilbert said, and turned off by a GFSC member by 8 p.m.
The approval also requires that the lights must be “removed in their entirety by the last day of November.”
The approval was granted over the objections of some neighbors.
Michele Menzer told the Committee that her backyard adjoins the soccer field and that she has a six year old who plays soccer at the club.
“We are huge sports fans,” Menzer said. She asked officials to decline the request for lights to allow residents time to “seek to gather some more information.”
Menzer noted that the lease with GFSC states that the installation of lights is not permitted. Lehrer explained to officials when the proposal was first publically discussed that use of temporary lights is not considered an installation.
“We might be playing with language of what the word ‘installation’ means,” Menzer said, “but I’d like to honor the spirit of the language there, which means no lights.”
The eight-year resident said, “We’ve never had lights. I’m not sure what’s changed that we need them now.
“The field isn’t always fully utilized during daylight hours,” Menzer said, and she encouraged greater daytime use of fields.
There are “at least five other fields that the soccer club has access to,” Menzer said, “including Diamond Nation that actually already has lights.”
William Connaughton is a 15-year township resident who said he “fully supported the development of the fields” and was present for its initial approvals. Those terms stipulated that there would be no sound system, no concession stand, and no lights, he said.
“We want to continue to be supportive” of the club, Connaughton said, but he asked for a delay in the vote “so homeowners can ... discuss with the soccer club and come to a resolution or solution that works for both us and the club.”
But Daniel Hendi, a 33-year resident who lives nearby, disagreed.
“I can’t think of a better way to upgrade the quality of life in Hunterdon County than to have children go to a place where volunteer coaches show up and give their time after work to help these children out to do the best that the can, for progression in life,” Hendi said.
Hendi added that he’s coached youth sports and that he knows what it’s like to get out of work at 5 p.m. and not be able to have a practice because it’s dark.
“That twilight is dangerous for kids to be running around,” he said.
There’s “no place for kids to go at night,” Hendi said. “That is a much more dangerous path in the long run.” He suggested that if the lights don’t work as promised, “Put the kibosh on it next year.”