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Westfield, Cranford Residents Speak Against Proposed Athletic Field at Union County College

Jackie Lieberman

Thursday, April 3, 2014 • 11:47am

WESTFIELD, NJ — A crowd Westfield and Cranford residents took turns speaking against a proposed soccer and lacrosse turf field and track on the Cranford campus of Union County College at Tuesday’s town council meeting.

To view the plans on the town of Cranford’s website, click here.

At a conference meeting earlier in the evening, Cranford Public Affairs Commissioner and former Cranford Mayor Tom Hannen personally asked the town council to pass a resolution supporting Cranford’s opposition to the project.

Opponents to the field, which some called a “complex,” said that it would cause an increase of traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood (which includes part of Westfield), increase littering in the neighborhood, involved taking out 700 mature trees, could  increase flooding problems, that the lights on the fields would shine into houses, that the field would be in constant use and that plans did not include bathrooms.

The UCC’s has published a “Fact or Fiction” information sheet on the field that addresses some of these concerns. To read it, click here.

Larraine Ohngemach of Cranford was the first of the opponents to speak during the regular town council meeting that night. She complained that the area around UCC has become a parking lot for the college, and said she believes the field would make the situation worse.

 “They have outgrown their space and they cannot contain it,” Ohngemach said.

A Westfield resident said that the field would lower property values and that the noise from the field would affect mourners at Fairview Cemetery. And although UCC has promised to plant 1,500 new trees around campus to replace those that would be removed, a member of the Cranford Township Tree Advisory Board said that no number of small samplings could make up for the destruction of those mature trees.

One Westfield resident who lives on Gallows Hill Road asked the council if there was anything they could do to make the plan less attractive to the college.

UCC has told The Alternative Press that the proposed field would improve water drainage in that section of the college grounds by more than 50 percent because the field is pervious and is replacing an impervious tennis court, and that a field for lacrosse and soccer would generate fewer spectators (and therefore traffic) than men’s and women’s basketball already played on campus.

The college also said that, although it is not required to get permits from Cranford Township to undertake this project, it is committed to its “good neighbor” policy of sharing all plans with Cranford Township and has worked closely with the Township’s administration over the years.

At the meeting, Councilwoman Vicki Kimmins said that she and fellow Ward 2 Councilwoman  Jo Ann Neylan would come up with a recommendation for the Westfield town council for the next meeting.

UCC will host an information session about the field on Monday, April 21. For more information on that, click here.

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