LIVINGSTON, NJ – Issues of excessive light and noise caused by the Madonna Field when it opens this spring were brought to the fore at the Madonna Field “Hours of Use” meeting on Wednesday at the Livingston Senior and Community Center.
Residents of Bennington Road and the surrounding area questioned Livingston township leaders about ways to reduce the new field’s impact on what is typically a quiet residential area.
In response to both the light and noise concerns, Deputy Mayor Ed Meinhardt told those present that trees are being put in place that will grow taller than the light polls over time.
“Evergreens are being put up that will buffer the sound and light,” he said. “We cannot promise this will be a zero issue, but it will not be a major issue in the years to come.”
Resident Dennis Duffy said that the trees that have been planted currently do not provide enough light screening. He also complained that the lights in the parking-lot area are too bright.
Mike Anello, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, addressed Duffy’s concerns by saying the evergreen trees will grow up to 60 feet at a rate of one-to-two inches every year.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing trees, and it will be green at all times,” he said. “When the field is totally complete, we will be able to see exactly what has to be done to best deal with the light. I can assure you that we will take a look at this situation, and assess the best way to deal with it.”
Regarding the parking-lot lights, Anello said that the lights in that area will be switched around to face a direction away from Bennington Road.
“And, if the parking light needs trees, we’ll do it,” he said. “We’re going to make it right.”
Ken Lomax, athletics and aquatics supervisor, said that the field would only be used from mid-March to mid-June, and then again from mid-August to mid-November. He said games must end around 9 p.m. so that the lights are out by 9:30 p.m.
Lomax said that most Saturday and Sunday games end by 6 p.m. and that, as with weekday nights, all night games on weekends must end by 9p .m.
“The lights are on a timer,” said Lomax. “On nights where there are no games, the lights will be off.”
Meinhardt said that the field will not have a scoreboard or a loud speaker system. A conduit for a scoreboard is being put in, according to Meinhardt, but there are no plans in the near future to add a scoreboard to the field.
“The monies being saved on the scoreboard will be used for nets and fencing,” he said.
Lomax also said that the field can only be used if a permit is obtained.
“I saw kids using bicycles on it in the wet weather, which can damage the field,” said Meinhardt. “It breaks my heart to see this. If people see this type of thing happening, they should call the police. They will get them off the field. We will put up signs that this is a reserved field.”
Resident Ajay Bansal said he was concerned about the major puddling of water he is seeing around the field, and asked the officials what is being done about it.
Mayor Shawn Klein said that the field sits on clay soil, which does not absorb water very well.
“The field itself absorbs more water than what was there before,” he said.
Anello said that the trees being planted will absorb much of the water that Bansal is seeing now.
“The construction is opening up things, which may be causing more puddling,” he said. “Once everything is finished, we’ll access it again and make it right.”
Resident Denise McDonald also expressed concern about the water issue, especially as spring approaches.
John Jahr, project engineer, said the field holds a significant amount of water, and should help reduce basement flooding in the area.
Mayor Klein assured residents that all of these concerns would be addressed.
“We’re not going to build this and walk away,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process.”
Anello said there are “easy fixes” for water issues, including the possibility of putting up some drywall or draining stones.
Jahr said the public would be invited to the field’s first light test, which will take place in mid-March. He added that the field will open as soon as final tests are done to make sure it’s perfectly safe.
“When it’s all done, children will have a great place to play,” said Jahr. “It will be the nicest soccer field in northern New Jersey.
Answering questions about the Madonna Field were Ken Lomax, athletics and aquatics supervisor; Jennifer Hessberger, head of the Senior, Youth & Leisure Services Department; Russ Jones, acting township manager; and Mike Anello, superintendent of the Department of Public Works.