On Wednesday, the postal service delivered certified letters to residents of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge who live within 200 feet of the Glen Ridge Country Club. The club seeks a zoning variance to build a fifth tennis court, and to omit a solid fence around it. The current statute permits only four courts on private property. The public is invited to the Board of Adjustment meeting on February 9 to voice their opinions of the proposed waiver.
The country club incurred some ill will from some of its neighbors after Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G) cut down 18 mature trees on Gray Street to put in high tension utility lines. Workers told homeowners the lines were intended to supply power to the country club.
Dan Cassino, of Broad street in Bloomfield, received one of the letters. “The timing seems odd,” he told Baristanet. Coincidences make him suspicious. “The country club had a lawsuit against PSE&G because of power issues, then, coincidentally, PSE&G was chopping down trees. It’s bizarre how quickly the government of Montclair abandoned the citizens of Gray Street.” The Board of Public Utitilities heard Montclair’s complaint about PSE&G’s actions in October, but the town settled with PSE&G before BPU issued a ruling. PSE&G offered the town some new lighting and promised to plant some new trees. Cassino also wondered that the notice of the hearing comes from the Secretary of the Glen Ridge Board of Adjustment, and not from the club’s lawyer. “There is not a great separation between the country club and the people who run the town.”
Michael Zicchelli, Deputy Administrator & Planner, Director of Planning and Development for Glen Ridge, did write the legal notice with the attorney for the club about the variance on review, and says he also writes the notices for residents. “Collaborating on the language saves time. Everyone knows the notice is true and accurate,” so discussion can go to the substance of the matter at the meetings. The tennis court will not be lit, he explained, and no additional power is required. “I don’t see any connection between a clay outdoor tennis court and what happened on Gray Street.” The letter went to 31 properties in town, to all of the Utilities and to the Essex County Planning Board, since the country club fronts a county road. He laughed when asked why the code asks for four courts, saying he doesn’t know when the code was written. As far as not having a solid fence, he pointed out that the club wants the court to look like the other courts in existence, and plans to plant 31 evergreen trees on the property line.
Brad Thatcher, a spokesman for the fight against PSE&G’s installations on Gray Street, did not receive a notice as his property is not within 200 feet of the club. He’s not too concerned about the tennis court, and thinks the country club should “be able to do whatever they want on their property. I wish we could have had more say on what the power company did on our property.” He’s more concerned about PSE&G’s plan to put up solar panels on utility poles than the club’s new court.
Jim Vigna, who is on the country club’s Board of Directors, explains that the fifth court will actually be further into the property. The club, which has been in existence since 1894, plans to put up 8 foot trees and “doesn’t want to upset anyone. It would make no sense to have a solid fence in the middle of nowhere. The trees will block the courts,” as they do in the four that exist already. As far as the issue with PSE&G, Vigna declared that the club had nothing to do with how the utility company fixed its problems.
The Board of Adjustment meeting will be held on Thursday, February 9, at 8:00pm, in the Council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 825 Bloomfield Avenue, Glen Ridge.