Questions arise with MKA field upgrade 

Montclair’s educational institutions are key contributors to the values and attraction of our town - and we all benefit from good relations between local institutions and neighborhood residents. But in the Jan. 23 story about the Montclair Kimberley Academy seeking to upgrade athletic fields at its middle school on Valley Road, our neighbor David Parker makes important points about the necessity for the Board of Adjustment to consider impacts on “all the neighborhood” from the proposed construction, fencing, structures, etc. proposed by the school.

One impact that doesn’t appear to have been discussed so far is the potential increase in demand for parking on our local streets during game days since — as reported — the intent of the upgrades is to permit two ball games to be played at the same time. Will doubling games also double attendance and traffic?

MKA has made recent efforts to institutionalize common sense and respect for local residents (and their driveways) on the part of school parents and visitors who are using our local streets. But that historically hasn’t always been the case. Is the school proposing any new safeguards regarding traffic on game days?

These matters also touch on questions of notification in advance of past and future public hearings. As a resident of Brunswick Road, living just half a block from the corner of the school property that is the most congested neighborhood intersection on school days, I’m surprised not to have received any notice of this recent hearing. I would hope the entire neighborhood will receive notice of the next hearing given the broad impacts on neighborhood traffic, area drainage, noise, etc.These are institutional impacts that go beyond the likely impact caused by a variance for a single residential property.

Separately, it seems disingenuous for MKA attorney Trembulak to suggest that the school’s plan magnanimously “would also benefit the neighbors” by improving drainage. I recall that the potential for flooding and drainage problems was raised by adjacent property owners but downplayed by MKA at the time the school undertook the major surface regrading and  “upgrades” that brought their playing fields to their current state. Fixing problems they caused shouldn’t be represented as a gift to the neighborhood. Rather, we should be asking what steps will the Board take to ensure MKA’s new drainage solutions will actually achieve what their past efforts failed to deliver?

One final note: reading the report of the proposal, it sounds as though new fencing and structures like dugouts will be closer to the Central Avenue curb line than MKA’s present fencing. If that is the case - will the Board make the requested variances contingent on creation of a sidewalk along Central Ave. in place of the present rough grass-covered verge? A sidewalk there would conform with other neighborhood streets and encourage visitors to stay out of the vehicular roadway of Central.