Stevenson Park: a sports complex?

POOR PLANNING

The Township Committee wants to build a sports complex at Stevenson Park, one of the last pristine and natural pieces of property left in the township, without any public input or real thought about the impacts. This is not a good idea.

Stevenson Park is located on West Front Street just west of Half Mile Road, on the western end of Shadow Lake.  There is a dock, a boat launch for small watercraft, walking paths, and picnic tables.

Though the below video was created prior to the 2018 election (and mentions the 2018 candidates at the end), the issues still resonate today with Middletown residents.

The proposed complex — slated to include 9 multi-sport fields and parking for as many as 340 cars — is another example of poor planning, without considering impacts to the surrounding community, better sites for the project, or whether so many new fields are really needed.

Elected officials even failed to notify or seek advice from the Township’s own boards, including the Environmental Commission and Open Space Preservation Committee.

What’s more, the plan would require reconstructing the Park’s 1-lane access bridge that the Township JUST spent over $1 million tax dollars to repair before re-opening the bridge in 2018.

 

Does Middletown really need more poorly planned development?

Fort Monmouth has been suggested as an ideal location for the sports complex that offers multiple travel routes and entry points, as well as existing parking.  Has this site even been considered?

 

BROKEN PROMISE

The Committee’s plan plainly violates the understanding that the Township had with the Stevenson family, who deeded the property to the Township with a restriction that the land be used only for passive recreation.  A broken promise is a lie at the time the promise is made.

 

NO VOICE AND NO NOTICE

And once again, the public has been left out of the discussion.

The plan was quietly advanced by the Township Committee the day after Labor Day in 2018, when residents were busy preparing for the start of school, and few were watching.

In fact, residents of Shady Oaks and Shadow Lake Village weren’t notified by the Township’s all-Republican Committee at all.  Residents first found out about the project from Democratic candidates thanks to another resident who attended the September 4, 2018 Township Committee meeting and noticed the plan documents buried in the 191-page agenda packet.

Anyone looking at just the 2-page meeting agenda at the top of the 191-page PDF file would not have “caught on” because the agenda itself conveniently omits the project description from the resolution name. The agenda lists only “18-209 Resolution Authorizing the Monmouth County Open Space Grant Application.

 

 

This is our town.  Shouldn’t we have a say in what happens to it?

 

EFFECT ON OUR QUALITY OF LIFE

Thousands of residents in the communities around the Park — Shadow Lake Village, Shady Oaks, River Plaza, and Lincroft — have real fear about the decline in their quality of life that will result from the planned development.  Here’s why:

 

FLOODING:  The park is a natural flood basin, so where will the water go?  Adjacent homes may experience significant flooding.

NOISE:  The sports fields would be just 100 feet from adjacent homes.  Probable future expansion of the sports complex to accommodate Leagues could bring bright lights and loudspeakers, as well.

TRAFFIC:  Traffic on West Front Street is already awful, especially between Half Mile Road and the Red Bank train station.  The road cannot accommodate the influx of new vehicles.

ACCIDENTS:  Car accidents on West Front Street, a scenic single-lane road, already occur with alarming frequency.  The number of collisions will only increase.

HABITAT AND ECOSYSTEMS:  The preservation of the Stevenson Tract in its natural state is important to prevent the loss of habitat and to avoid disturbing delicate ecosystems.

LOSS OF QUIET ENJOYMENT:   Stevenson Park is a lovely local park now enjoyed by families for walking, fishing, kayaking, tossing around a ball or Frisbee, picnicking, or taking the family dog for a run.

 

OASIS, a community organization that uses Stevenson Park for a farming program for autistic young adults, will likely lose use of the Park, as well.  The farming program is designed to teach living skills and provide a better quality of life to the students, for whom farming has natural appeal. The organization’s use of the property is dependent on the Township’s renewal of its lease, and there is already talk that the lease may be cancelled or non-renewed to pave the way for the sports fields.

 

TRAFFIC AND ACCIDENTS

 

Photo of five cars trying to enter and exit the Stevenson Bridge.  Imagine hundreds.

 

When asked if the township will conduct a traffic study to see if the location is even viable to support the hundreds of cars the sports complex would create, the Township Administrator proclaimed, “No traffic study is necessary.”

Really?

The Middletown Police Department’s records show that there have been 80 car accidents in the last five years alone on the 1-mile stretch of road that contains the Stevenson Park entrance.

If the complex is built, West Front Street will become even more congested, and driving conditions will become even more dangerous as busy parents struggle to make drop-off and pick-up times.

 

 

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?   YOUR VOICE MATTERS.  YOUR VOTE MATTERS.

The all-Republican Township Committee voted in favor of the Sports Complex in a 5-0 Committee vote in 2018.

Democratic challengers in the 2018 election first brought the plan to the attention of Shady Oaks and Shadow Lake residents.  The Middletown Democrats stand firmly opposed to the plan and want to stop the over-development in town and preserve natural open spaces, but support responsible quality-of-life improvements. We are fully in favor of building safe playing fields at other more viable locations at a lower cost to residents.

 

LIES AND DECEPTION

In response to the growing public backlash, the Township Committee members engaged in a series of deceitful tactics in 2018:

 

Deputy Mayor Fiore stated at the Township Committee meeting on Sept. 17, 2018 that the sports complex plan was only in an exploratory phase and would never actually be built if subsequent studies revealed insurmountable problems. This was UNTRUE when he said it. The application for a grant had already been made and, if awarded, would obligate the Township to build what they have presented to the County. Fiore also stated that the grant money would be used to offset the exploratory studies needed to ensure that the project could be built. He said that knowing it was an illegal use of grant money.

Fiore claimed on Sept. 17, 2018 that the Board of Education had refused to cooperate with the Township to explore other viable options and field locations, but THE TRUTH is that the Board of Education had never been asked to have that conversation.

At the 10/15/2018 Committee meeting officials claimed that the plan is now 2 fields instead of 9, but they had so poorly concocted that story that they couldn’t even say how many parking spaces were in the supposed new plan.

Committeeman Tony Perry stated, falsely, at the Middletown Candidate Forum on 10/23/2018 that the Township had pulled the grant application for the sports complex, but he did NOT say the project is dead. TRUTH: As of 10/24/2018, the grant had NOT been withdrawn. Further, the Township Administrator admitted at the 10/15/2018 Township Committee meeting that NOT getting the grant will NOT kill the project.

Then, with the November 6, 2018 election less than two weeks away, they told residents of Shadow Lake Village that the project is off the table.  This was another stall tactic.

As a last ditch effort just prior to the November 6, 2018 election, the Township Committee members claimed that they had found alternative locations and were working with the Board of Education. But there was NO signed agreement with the Board of Education, and the last scheduled shared services meeting with the Board of Education was cancelled at the last minute by the Township Committee without explanation.

Only a conservation easement would prevent development of Stevenson Park and protect it into perpetuity. A resolution or ordinance passed by the Township Committee can be undone at any time.

 

The Township Committee members have repeatedly lied to the public. There is no plan to stop this development.

The only effective way to save Stevenson Park is to change who makes the decision at Town Hall. 

Your voice matters.  Your vote matters.  In November, cast your vote for Democratic candidates to change the make-up of the dais at Town Hall to have a real say in what happens in Middletown!