Recycland Under the Microscope: Sports Complex #1 Goes Before the Zoning Board of Adjustment

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At this evening's Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, Recycland operating as Metuchen I LLC began their case for variance of use in a process they hope will lead to the construction of an indoor sporting facility. It is one of two currently proposed for development in town.   

 

Recycland owns the property stretching from Durham Avenue next to Vidas Park, to Middlesex Avenue, adjacent to the Somerset Bank building near the old Cryan's site. 

 

The indoor sports complex, which will be owned and operated by Sportsplex, a Maryland based corporation, is proposed for the area next to Vidas where an abandoned warehouse now stands.  The plans do not meet the zoning standards requiring more than 500 feet from existing residential and municipal property. 

At tonight's meeting, Recycland partner Stuart A. Schooler, an environmental engineer and real estate developer, his attorney, and his environmental consultant faced the board and the public to address concerns over building a sports complex atop contaminated soil and landfill. 

 

The site, formerly a manufacturing location where liquid solvents were dumped directly into the ground, is contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's).  The warehouse interior is lined with Transite board, asbestos.  Recycland has spent years and just under $5 million in soil remediation efforts which have included excavation and the removal of contaminated soil.  Remaining is contaminated soil beneath a portion of the warehouse foundation.  Next step plans are to excavate the soil there, place the Transite asbestos board into the excavation void, and single-layer cap the landfill with concete and crushed foundation materials - all in accordance with NJ DEP requirements.  Read about Capping. Recycland hopes that this final phase remediation plan will be approved by the NJ DEP in January. 

 

Mr. Schooler expressed the benefit of burying the Transite rather than transport it to another location for disposal because that level of disruption has the potential to break the board - making it more dangerous.  Later in the evening, Recycland's environmental consultant, Paul Dimakos in response to questioning, said it would also be more expensive to transport the asbestos boards and that the expense would not buy any additional health or safety benefits.

 

Added to the public concern over perceived health risk factors was the support for indoor sports complex number two - Jeff Josell's proposed site between Prospect Avenue and Route 27.  Josell, a resident and active volunteer in local soccer clubs, hopes to build a similar facility on the other side of town. 

 

According to Schooler, Recycland purchased the property in 1999, two years after the former owner realized the degree to which the land was contaminated and was unable to find another buyer.  Site clean-up began with the disposal of three existing parcels and the removal of contaminated soil.  He stated that while Recycland will not seek residential use deeds for the property, that the remediation efforts will be as stringent as residential standards would require.

 

Prior owner, The Carlisle Group, spent $9 million to clean-up the area where Vidas Park was built.  There is currently an asbestos capped-landfill under the baseball field there. 

 

Underground wells in areas throughout the property are tested bi-annually to monitor VOC levels as well as other contaminants.  Shallow to medium depth groundwater tests have shown contamination levels are dropping off but deep groundwater test results have not been as successful.  The developers theorize improved results will continue as the source of contamination, the polluted soil, has been removed.  Read more about VOC degradation and groundwater cycles.  It is theorized that both wet and dry cycles are required in order to have the most impact on VOC reduction.  No questions were asked pertaining to the ability of soil to adequately dry under a cement cap.

 

When questioning was opened to the public, tempers began to rise - just a bit.  The audience wanted to scrutinize DEP requirements because young children would be among the patronage of such an establishment but the developers could only speak to what they would do to meet the state requirements.  Zoning Board member Daniel Spiegel tried to mediate by suggesting to Recycland "you must marry your testimony to the public concerns."  Zoning Board chairperson Patricia Lagay eventually excused herself from the hearing because her son-in-law was in attendance and quite vocal.  "I'm here to represent the kids," he said "are they going to be safe?"

 

Borough zoning board attorney Robert Munoz tried to explain to the public that a variance use exception is not a judgment on NJ DEP standards and that the zoning board would simply look to ensure that the developer was complying with existing regulations. 

 

Sportsplex would lease the land from Recycland, who emphatically stated it would retain ownership of the property - that it would not "sell away the responsibility of this contaminated site."  The meeting ran until 11:00 without any Sportsplex testimony.  Hearings on this matter will continue at 8:00 pm on December 11th, at the regularly scheduled Zoning Board Meeting.  Jeff Josell goes before the planning board with his sports facility proposal on December 18th.

 

If Recycland does not get this zoning variance approved, it plans to have a warehouse facility operating on the site by spring '09.     

59 Comments

Sorry I got into this discussion late. I'll try to respond to any direct questions about our project. I thought the article was extremely accurate and highly professional.

Edison has a lot of pie in the sky plans but they don't own any of the property.

Already plans for one in Edison over by the inspection station near Rutgers in an old army building. Indoor turf,basketball, batting cages,wrestling,pool,track and more. Saw the plans at the redevelopment workshop in Edison to discuss the redevelopment of the Edison train station area. Don't know if it will ever happen but it is proposed

True, the town shouldn't help one business over the other, but it does have zoning rights. I don't know about the Boro Motors site, but they owners of the Oakite property are seeking a variance that would allow them to put a sports complex there. What's wrong with the town just denying the variance if they feel the best fit for the town is to NOT have two indoor sports facilities?

I'm not saying they should deny the variance. I don't take the threat of Recycland turning that site into a warehouse lightly. And I think if that were to happen, it would an issue for residents in that area.

I think both complexes can succeed. The Boro Motors site will get the bulk of the Metuchen business, and the other site will draw business from Edison. Edison has a couple thousand kids playing soccer. Add in kids playing basketball and football and wrestling - that's a lot of kids. And let's not forget that there are also adults who play sports, too. There are 100,000 people in Edison. Only 13,000 in Metuchen.

I disagree with your opinion, but that is ok.

I also disagree that people think that our local government should be used to help one business over another. That just isn't what our government was meant to do and when it tries to do so, usually screws it up.

No Fio's now and the town seems ok. No one hurt here. My cablevision works great and the price is the same as everywhere else. I guess these two guys will undercut each other until they both go out of business. Then Metuchen residents will be hurt by having to drive to Rahway or Soccer Centers and pay the same price as always.

You don't see how having one complex instead of two hurt Metuchen residents? You don't like choice? You don't like options?

Put it this way, do you think Cablevision will offer better service and better prices when Verizon starts offering FIO's in Metuchen?

Choice is good.

Limiting Competition will HURT the residents of Metuchen. I do not see how having one complex instead of two can HURT anyone. Not even the developer since he will be back with a new plan for something else next year. THIS IS A DEVELOPER WHO COULDN'T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT METUCHEN. If he cared, he would have cleaned up this eyesore a long time ago. Show some interest in improving the town and maybe the town will get behind you. Until then, crawl back under your rock in Maryland and stay there and take your soccer cronies with you.

So its either an athletic facility or a warehouse, right? What makes you think the warehouse would look better than a athletic facility?

I think the number of units, the parking and traffic (which was ignored in the end) was talked about more than the look of Renaissance when it was talked about.

But hey, lets put in another bank, restaurant or tanning salon. We wouldn't want to offer something that our citizens could actually use, would we?

Our town planner assists in the decision about what belongs where, and what it should look like. The architectural plans for Renaissance were reviewed over and over to make sure it would look appropriate for our town. Now, all of a sudden, right across the street, a big bubble or a big warehouse is OK. Give me a break. About the only thing we are good at doing in metuchen is putting businesses out of business.

And who chooses? You? Our Govt? The market will give "that person" an opportunity to run a profitable business, it is not our governments place to make that choice. Maybe back in the U.S.S.R., but not in Metuchen.

By limiting competition, you hurt Metuchen residents.

They have not broken ground yet because of tough econmic times. Even more of a reason to build one complex and hope that even one can make it in this economy. Just because a guy wants to open a business, that doesn't mean its needed or going to work, just look at the restaurants. Pick the appropriate site and give that person an opportunity to run a profitable business. This would seem to be in the best interest of the town and not the developers.

If they both fail then the owners made a mistake in their business. So now our town leaders are business experts? They know what will work in Metuchen?

If so, maybe they should start talking to the numerous restaurant owners who seem to open and then close their doors every 9 months or so.

As for the former stop & shop and being a nice product? We have not seen the product. They have not broken ground. Tell me in 15 years if we received a good product or not.

If it ever gets built.

I think it is the town's concern. If one or both fail the town will be stuck with these abandoned facilities. And then hope another developer will come and fix our problems. Maybe it's not the government's role, but I would hope they do their best to guide developers in the right direction for the town.

Take what they did with Renaissance, the developer initially wanted to build a drive-thru big box pharmacy. That would have been completely inappropriate for Metuchen. The town worked with the developer and, although everyone does not agree, I think we got a very nice product in the end. It's definitely much better than what we currently have.

Why is there so much concern for the facilities being successful? Are you all business experts? Wouldn't the business owner know better if his business has a shot to succeed?

And why should our government be making those decisions?

That is not governments place? When govt. gets involved, is the outcome what we want?

Limiting competition will hurt the residents of Metuchen.

Sports complex or warehouse - those aren't the only options here. This guy has had the property for many years,and approval for the warehouse since 2002 or 2003, if it were profitable for him, he would have built it. Put the bubble eyesore out of the way, over in boro motors, and build something aesthetically pleasing on Oakite. The town planner has got to have the authority to make this happen.

Better two sports complexes than one sports complex monopolized by travel soccer and a warehouse. I live just off Central Ave (not in the new development) and I've already lived through one traffic accident where a child was killed. We have enough trucks, thanks. Maybe the Boro Motors site could have a warehouse. Trucks are already on Route 27. It's a perfect fit. It can even be a warehouse for soccer equipment!

Well said! Let's encourage growth of our town in a positive way. Does it make sense to put up 2 sports complexes? We may have a lot of teams ready to utilize the space, but I cannot imagine that we have enough teams to utilize the space of 2 new complexes. The last thing I want to see is one or both of these go out of business. That will just leave us with yet another empty building. Let's be smart about planning the future of Metuchen.

Let's not assume that any threat is an idle threat. The land will be used one way or another. Look at Walmart right down the street!!! Let's encourage the growth of our town in a positive direction.

I think that any non-restaurant business is good for Metuchen right now. Many people want to participate in sports and clubs, but don't want to travel to Woodbridge or Rahway. Edison is close and full of kids and adults waiting to utilize such a business. Let's trust the NJDEP requirements. We're not sleeping UNDER the sports stadium, rather people will be playing INSIDE of it for an hour or so at a time. I think the DEP has our health covered for the patrons and employees. More importantly, we need to spread the word about Metuchen business. As an earlier writer said, we have too many vacant buildings. How will we fill them up? Will they be affordable to residents? Will we have bike lanes to get back and forth without cars? These are my concerns.

Last winter Edgar had extremely limited availability. It may be free, but it wasn't available.

The Boro Motors site is supposed to be a temporary bubble that will come down in the summer and be used as an outdoor field. Private clubs that don't get town field use for free would be the most likely customers.

Out of 13 teams, how many play during the winter? Winter practices cost money unless they are at Edgar. Not all teams practice in the winter and if they do, they don't want to pay for it. If they want to practice there is room, maybe it will take up 2 days, some will join leagues, some will play at soccer centers if the competition is better.
Where do they play during the non winter months? Outdoors! Who will be using the 2 sportsplexes during those months?

There are 13 teams

I don't think you can fit all the soccer teams on the field on one night.

Soccer 1 night per week on a shared field, other sports on other nights. Sorry if that was unclear.

mr josell, are you saying that soccer will utiliaze your facility for 6 nights per week, during the Fall and Winter?

I sure hope they would put something between the concrete and the astroturf for cushioning. Regardless of the sport, playing on concrete is not good for the joints.

It's quite possible there is enough demand in the area for indoor facilities that both places could succeed.

But I don't like the idea of still having to look at that big ugly building, whatever is inside. The guy wants waivers from the requirements for trees and foundation plantings. Is the soil so contaminated that you can't even grow plants in it? Are they concerned that having to water plants will cause more contaminants to migrate into the test wells?

Durham Ave wouldn't be affected as much as Central by a warehouse. Trucks are prohibited on the Edison portion of Durham Ave, so they can't come down Durham from the fork with New Durham by the gas station. They have to go down New Durham and make the left onto Central and then the left onto Durham. There are already trucks from the Liberty Street industrial park using New Durham and Central, which are county roads.

If you live in those Central Square or Franklin Square townhouses you might ask yourself why the previous administration approved those residential uses along a county road with heavy truck traffic, or why they approved the warehouse on the Oakite site in 2003.

Which brings up the question, if a warehouse was viable there, and the landowner has had approvals since 2003, why hasn't he put one there already? There has been no activity on the site for the last few years, when the economy was better than it is now. The idea that suddenly a warehouse tenant is going to appear out of nowhere when he hasn't been able to find one in five years seems unlikely.

The warehouse is a tired, idle threat. No trucks are permited on Durham ave from the Edison side so obviously you are not from the neighborhood. Must be from Durhem ave in Maryland. Our town leaders can take up the contamination issues with Trenton and maybe after all these years you will actually clean the property and show that you care about Metuchen for once. All of the other sports can use the complex on the 1 night per week soccer isn't using it.

Contrary to what you soccer folks may think, there are other athletes in town who would like a facility. You've made the argument for two indoor complexes -- travel soccer can occupy one and the rest of the world can make use of the other. Perfect!

If you have a problem with the NJDEP quidelines regarding asbestos, take it up with Trenton. You're sounding ridiculous complaining about it here.

AND, how easy it is for residents not living near Durham Ave to say "no go" to a sports complex when you won't be directly effected by an increase in tractor trailer traffic once an operational warehouse occupies the site. Thanks for the support of your neighbors over here.

Isn't that what we would get here. A piece of astroturf laying directly over a concrete slab capping asbestos. The turf at Inman is behind the hockey rink where little league tryouts were held, formerly All Pro Baseball Academy.

If we need space for travel soccer to practice January - March, do we need to build 2 places. I'm sure that 1 would be enough to handle Metuchen Travel Soccers 15 teams 1 hour per week for 3 months. The Metuchen teams that do practice in the winter can always find places to practice.

TBSA does not have a turf field, they have a piece of astroturf laying directly on top of concrete. Not exactly a good surface for soccer. I wouldn't pay for my kids to play on that.

I hadn't heard the condos at Rahway fell through. Their web site says "we will be open for this winter season," not "we are not closing."

Not familiar with the turf at Inman - went there for Rovers once and it was on a hard surface where they do street hockey.

I don't know anything about the market for basketball - only soccer. I do know that the travel soccer club was not able to find practice space in the schools last winter because they were being used by the Y for basketball. Even when available, a wood floor is not a good surface for soccer. There is a need for suitable indoor soccer practice space closer to home.

Why not look what they did with the Renaissance Project. The planning board at the encouraging of the King will ruin Main st. Main St, is dying another empty store, not even restaurants can survive anymore. But they went and approved Renaissance unconditionally. A very dense project,basically whatever the builder wanted he got and he was not local. Take a long hard look at Main St. At least 11 empty stores and counting. The King ruined this town in more ways than one. He left a big hole.

Rahway is not closing after this winter. The real estate deal to build condos on the site fell through. Why does TBSA not count? COPA trains there all winter. All pro baseball academy left Inman, opening up turf space there as well. Not to mention all the competing basketball places (YMCA in Woodbridge, Club @ Woodbridge, Hoop Heaven in Bridgewater, every school in every town, TBSA - or does that not count because there is no wood on the floor).Give me a break. There is enough competition. Why flood the market in Metuchen. I don't want to see yet another empty building. Find a plan that works for the future of Metuchen. Not one that could potentially put 2 business out of business, and leave 2 ugly eyesores.

You are all paranoid about the asbestos.

The NJDEP will approve the placement under the concrete cap because it is a safe method of disposal.

Asbestos is NOT water soluble and moving it offsite is more of a risk than burying it.

Spending more money is fine if it is really a safer method... by moving it around, the risk becomes greater.

If you have a concern... stay home and don't send your kids to the facility.

Keep in mind there is already 4 acres worth of asbestos landfill under Vidas Park and about three quarters of an acre under the county's trailhead park.

Where is this plenty of competition? Somerset and Aberdeen are the closest comparable indoor soccer facilities. Rahway is closing after this winter. TBSA doesn't count - they have a carpet on top of cement.

While the issue of safety is the number one concern, one has to question why we need two similar complexes within a 1/2 mile of one another. The Boro site is already approved for indoor soccer. There is also plenty of competition within a 10 mile radius. Why not put different things at Oakite? Ice skating, roller skating or bowling?

Absolutely! More people should come to the next meeting on December 11th and let the board members know that we think spending the extra money is worth it for safety's sake.

The best way to keep our kids safe is to cart the asbestos off site. If 5 million has already been spent, why not spend a little more, and do the right thing? Paranoia or not, basics of science or not, you want the support of the residents, show them you are willing to make it as safe as possible.

The Oakite zoning changes were in motion before this developer bought the property. Even before the "previous ruler" took office.

The previous ridiculousy high density was decreased in 1993 and should have been further reduced in response to Metuchen's certified Fair Share Plan under COAH.

See page 5 of the Metuchen Housing Element/ Fair Share Plan of 1998, which discusses factors guiding Metuchen's housing policy, #6: "Environmental constraints on the Gulton, Oakite and Hampton sites that limit the ability for future residential development on these sites, as recognized by COAH in its 1992 substantive certification of the Borough's Fair Share plan and its 1993 amendment to substantive certification."

It is not clear from the available online documents when the zoning change on the Oakite property was finally made in response to the changes in the Master Plan, but the owners of the Gulton property did lose their lawsuit against the Borough over this very same issue.

Metuchen prevailed because of the language in the Master Plan documents. The borough attorney explained this when he discussed the Gulton lawsuit at a council meeting.

http://www.metuchennj.org/masterplan/(S)HousingPlanElement1998.pdf

If the concerns are legitimate environmental concerns, what difference does it make who brings them up?

And by people that weren't obviously friends of the developer of the other sports complex.

Less impressive than the residents? There were only three, maybe four, well thought out questions from the public. Everyone else seemed to have an agenda . I don't disagree with the concerns that were brought up, I just wish they were presented better.

Agree, the board members did not impress me.

Metuchen Zoning and Planning Board are nothing more than a farce. Most members are hold overs of the O'Brien reign. They do what is right for themselves not the majority. Check the history, the Renaissance project was a joke before the planning board, rushed through. Oakite zoning was changed years ago to hurt the present owners. It did not meet the standards of the previous ruler.

I am not sure anyone was squirming last night.
The public speakers looked foolish last night for not understanding the basics of science as the engineers explained. They then asked the questions abut 20 times over and over again.

It's a shame that people have no regard for the state NJDEP who will regulate the site.

I am all about protecting people, but the paranoia is a bit too much for me.

You have to go to the meeting. Zoning and Planning Board proceedings are quasi-judicial and they can't consider "out-of-court" testimony. They explained this during the Renaissance project when people were writing letters to the Planning Board. The PB attorney made an announcement that no letters could be considered or made part of the reocrd. If you wanted to have your opinion on the record you had to come to the meeting and give testimony.

Seems like a very attractive project, I fully support and look forward to visiting with my kids.


I will contact all the board members and let them know how I feel

Hmmmm. So "any" successful business should be allowed to operate as long as your taxes are kept down???? Doyeeeeeeeee. what a boob.

Ha Ha that was fun last night, watching them squirm. Attica, Attica, Attica!

How can an indoor sports facility be any more dangerous for our kids when they are currently playing outdoors on the same ground not more than 500 yards from this facility?

Yeah, lets see if we can drive more businesses out of town

Especially successful ones that can help drive the economy of our town forward, let's keep them out.

Then we can go back and wonder why are taxes are going up...

Where were all these frustrated people when Vidas Field, which is capped in the same way that this area will be, was under construction? It's a nasty place, wet and damp, you can practically feel yourself growing another arm while you're standing there. It's nice to have places to play but it's better to be safe. Make sure you come on December 11th to continue to air concerns.

Clearly posted one of the people that were at the meeting that objected to the Town people's concerns.

Schooler needs to know that he is not going to bulldose our Residents. He clearly was frustrated, as were his cronies. They thought they would come in with their "expert" witnesses and just sail through the hearing without a problem. They clearly did not expect that much opposition to their plan.

Boils down to money...they want to do what the standards call for and nothing more to ensure the safety of our children!

See you on next month!!!

I hope they leave it vacant and run down, fits with the look of the town


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  • stuartdschooler: Sorry I got into this discussion late. I'll try to read more
  • Anonymous: Edison has a lot of pie in the sky plans read more
  • Anonymous: Already plans for one in Edison over by the inspection read more
  • Anonymous: True, the town shouldn't help one business over the other, read more
  • Anonymous: I think both complexes can succeed. The Boro Motors site read more
  • Anonymous: I disagree with your opinion, but that is ok. I read more
  • Anonymous: No Fio's now and the town seems ok. No one read more
  • Anonymous: You don't see how having one complex instead of two read more
  • Anonymous: Limiting Competition will HURT the residents of Metuchen. I do read more
  • Anonymous: So its either an athletic facility or a warehouse, right? read more
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