ROXBURY, NJ — Roxbury school officials promised last week to keep the township planning board in the loop when it comes to the construction of an outdoor classroom project in Succasunna.
The officials, including Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic, appeared — in remote fashion — before the board on April 7. The appearance was called a “courtesy review” because — unlike private entities’ development plans — school district projects are not subject to planning board approval.
In fact, work at the site behind Lincoln-Roosevelt School, which was decades ago used for tennis courts, is already underway and began long before the planning board had its chance to weigh in.
The district has removed the dilapidated former tennis courts, light poles and other items at the site. It is placing on the site two 50-foot-wide by 100-foot-long open-sided pavilions that will include four classrooms. The project is estimated to cost about $1.4 million.
The April 7 session was largely amicable, although Roxbury Township Planner Russell Stern made a point of pressing the district officials to give more details than those provided in a March memo he received from district Buildings and Grounds Director Peter Riffel.
“Really, these are questions that are out there because the application really didn’t explain what the intent of this was,” said Stern. “Of course, it's for the education of the children. Of course, it improves the area. But I was just looking for some additional information.”
Riffel told the board he’d sent Stern a subsequent memo in which he tried to answer the planner’s questions. However, at the meeting, Stern suggested the answers were too vague, hence his request for the April 7 meeting.
“This is an expenditure of taxpayer dollars, and we’re just looking for a presentation,” he said. “So if you could tell us a little bit more than … one or two sentences in the application form, that would be great.”
Radulic, at that point, gave a detailed explanation of the district’s goal with the project, telling the board that school officials held “multiple meetings” over about eight months to brainstorm about a way to use the tennis court area which “has been a little bit neglected over the years.”
She said the pavilions’ use will largely be dictated by the imagination and creativity of Roxbury teachers, noting she envisions the structures being used by teachers from all over the district. “I’m expecting my teachers are going to come up with some very innovative ways to use the site,” said the superintendent.
To Stern’s concern about aesthetics, especially along Meeker Street, Riffel said the district plans to plant new trees along the street and to erect a 10-foot-tall, black vinyl fence around its perimeter. He also said LED lighting inside the site will automatically dim when nobody is there.
Roxbury Planning Board Chairman Charles Bautz said he “looked forward” to seeing the school officials come back before the board to discuss several topics including their plans for storage, furniture, bathrooms, electricity and Internet access.
Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo, who also served on the planning board, told the school officials that “the township would be happy to lend any kind of support” they might need. “We would love to collaborate on a project like that,” he said. “So don’t hesitate to ask.”
Planning Board Member Shawn Potillo said the outdoor pavilion project is “a great idea” for the site. “It’s nice the kids will have this polished area to learn in a different environment, so kudos to you and that idea.”
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