CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz announced that the borough will be building two regulation-size basketball courts at Garden Park during the regular Zoom meeting of the Borough of Chatham Council on Monday night.

The mayor said the courts will be ready for use sometime in June.

The council also brought its contingent of full-time police officers back to 20 with the hiring of John P. Graziano, who was sworn in as a probationary officer, effective April 13 at the salary of $52,466.54 (pro-rated for the rest of 2021). Police Chief Brian Gibbons said that Graziano replaces the vacancy left by Matt Belcastro, who left last year to become a detective for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

Graziano has a B.A. degree from Caldwell University and spent the last two and a half years as a member of the Clifton Police Department. 

Graziano's hiring was announced after the council returned from the executive session held just before the start of the public meeting.

Also coming out of the executive session was an affordable housing agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center that the council unanimously approved for the River Road apartment complex.

The apartments will be built on Block 135, Lots 9, 10, 11 and 12 - starting at the intersection of Watchung Avenue and River Road. At least 15 percent of the apartments must be set aside for affordable housing.

Council President Carolyn Dempsey reported on the survey taken on Chatham Borough recreation facilities. There were 771 respondents to the survey - 555 from Chatham Borough residents, 229 from Chatham Township residents and five from non-residents of the Chathams.

Dempsey noted that Garden Park "hasn't received a lot of love in many, many years." She said that the basketball courts and tennis courts were named as the top two areas that needed improvement. There were 19 pages of detailed feedback given by those responding to the survey. Dempsey noted that two sports mentioned that are not native to Chatham - "curling and cricket" were two examples of the depth of the comments made.

Dempsey said that $150,000 is targeted by the council for recreational improvements. In related news, the council passed a resolution awarding a contract to La Forza Construction, LLC, to repave three tennis courts at Garden Park for $39,734.

Although the survey has been completed, council member Jocelyn Mathiasen said that the council still wants to receive input and feedback from citizens about recreation facilities.

Mathiasen and Dempsey presented a virtual tour of the Stanley Church property at 94 Fairmount Ave., which was donated to the borough in 2020. The council is seeking volunteers to join the steering committee, which will help determine the best uses for the facility and its reception hall that holds up to 350 and the larger sanctuary section of the former church.

"This is obviously very early in this process," Mathiasen said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, former council member Bob Weber called in to urge the council to take prompt action in banning retail businesses from selling or growing marijuana in Chatham. The state set an Aug. 22 deadline for municipalities to opt-in or out of the retail marijuana business. Weber said that not opting out would lock the borough into a five-year commitment to such businesses.

"We're very much aware of the 180-day deadline and our attorneys are currently engaged in research, basically the legwork, for drawing up the requisite ordinances," Mayor Kobylarz said.

Chatham Borough attorney Steve Kleinman said he was reviewing the "very odd statute" signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, which is 250 pages long. Chatham Township adopted an ordinance opting out of the retail selling and growing of cannabis last month.

Mathiasen added that the borough council could prohibit smoking and vaping in public places.

Mayor Kobylarz reported that the borough will be taking measures to help local businesses and eateries recover from the Covid-19 lockdowns by waiving the application fees for sidewalk dining for the rest of 2021 and continue to carve out short-term parking for takeout business on Main Street.

Kobylarz also said that benches and tables have been added to Reasoner Park, where the Gazebo is located, to provide more outdoor dining and recreation areas for residents.

In other business, council member Mathiasen encouraged residents to join the April 26 council meeting on the 2021 budget. 

"You'll learn a lot if you attend the meeting," Mathiasen said.