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Controversial Daly Field Development Reluctantly Approved by Planning Board

After a mountain of concerns raised by residents and Fair Lawn planning board members themselves, developer Landmark has won a conditional approval to build a large housing complex in Radburn.

After nine months of hearings – and amidst concerns voiced from the public as well as reluctance from some members – the Fair Lawn Planning Board voted unanimously Monday night to give the go-ahead to Landmark’s Daly Field housing development.

Grassroots citizens group Neighbors to Save Daly Field, which has opposed the 165-unit development, encouraged residents to voice their concern at the meeting, expected to be the final hearing of the lengthy planning board process.

“Fair Lawn’s Planning Board is made up of politically-appointed board members and they need to know how the public feels about this development,” a flier circulated by the group read.

Many residents echoed concerns that had been prevalent throughout past hearings, like the impact of the high-density development on area traffic and pedestrian safety. Environmental concerns were another sticking point for many residents.

Eileen Johnson gave emotional testimony on the potential environmental impact of the development, reading the side effects of two chemicals, chromium and naphthalene, which neighborhood residents fear will be released by unsettling the field during construction.

“This is dangerous. It’s going into our air. I don’t know how far, but it’s going to be directed at me,” she told the board.

Gloria Alessi, who lives just outside the Radburn area, told the board that she witnessed the potential environmental impacts in her own yard when a well dug at the corner of her property killed some of her plants and grass.

“I am concerned about the environmental issues, if they start major digging on Daly Field, on the affect it’s going to have on the rest of the neighborhood,” she said.

Their concerns were repeated by the attorney for Neighbors to Save Daly Field, as well as by some on the board. The counsel for the board as well as the representative of the developer, however, agreed that the planning board had “no jurisdiction” over the potential environmental impact of the project.

The board’s jurisdiction was limited in other ways, most substantially by a “builder’s remedy” suit Landmark filed in 2007 in which the court ruled that it could not decide the fate of the application based on its size or use, and only on variance issues—which the board agreed had all been resolved by the time of their vote Monday night.

Still, the citizen’s group hoped that the board would resolve some of the issues it had with the proposal, such as the “segregation” of its 33 affordable housing units — which the developer is required to construct according to state affordable housing regulations — in a cluster along the train tracks.

 “I know you can’t stop this development...but the developer has not listened to the residents of Fair Lawn at all,” resident Frank Miller said, echoing the concerns stated by others that the board was moving too hastily in its inevitable approval of the plan.

“The work isn’t done,” added Joel Rosen, the group’s attorney, in his final plea to the board, urging them to take into consideration the residents’ concerns about construction of the project.

But, the developer’s attorney, Ronald Shimanowitz, countered in his own summation. “This board is duty-bound to follow the court order as well as the ordinance,” he said, referring to the successful lawsuit by Landmark to have their development judged based on existing town zoning ordinances.

The board agreed, and Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski, a vocal opponent of the development throughout the process, put forth the motion to approve the development.

“I took an oath to faithfully, justly, and impartially enforce the laws,” he said, after reiterating his concerns about the project. The board could not engage in “grandstanding” by ignoring the ruling of the courts, Trawinski added.

“I could do that here. It would be very easy for me to bring a motion to deny this application....I’m increasing the tax burden on my kids and my grandkids, because I have no doubt that a superior court judge will hand us our head in a hand basket.”

Trawinski, along with other members, did add conditions to the motion of approval, many of which required the developer’s help in mitigating potential traffic hazards and maintaining landscaping consistent with the Radburn neighborhood. The developer will also be required to submit a plan to integrate the affordable housing units more fully into the development.

After agreeing on the conditions, the board entered its largely inevitable unanimous vote of approval on the project.

As Trawinski put it: “The most reluctant yes I ever cast.”

Stay with Patch for more in-depth coverage on how the development's approval will impact Fair Lawn.


Correction: the original version of this article mistated the name of Neighbors to Save Daly Field's attorney.

Tommy P November 21, 2012 at 03:16 AM
It belongs to the members of the Radburn Association. You know those of us who own here. We have a contract for how to manage our collective private property. If you don't like I suggest you start the actions to dissolve the Association or accept the rules and outcome of our contractual agreement. Just because a few hundred people own the land, that doesn't make it public land.
Julia Enerson November 21, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Walter, this argument lost in court several times. You can say it over and over again, but it won't make it true. Daly Field is owned by the Radburn Association.
Julia Enerson November 21, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Tommy P, wrong. The property is owned by the Radburn Association and rights to use are granted to all Radburn residents. Your imprecise language just lends fuel to a fire that doesn't need to be relit.
Tommy P November 21, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Really? Will they be responsible for the first rain? What about the increased litter? What about the new Democratic voters? Join me in being the first to welcome our new neighbors. This development will not have the smallest bedrooms, nor will it be the most dense. It will not be the most difficult for emergency services and the science on the enviornmental "threat" is a wacky theory that lacks any credible science. Greed is good, it's nothing more than someone else's self interest. But please indulge us, how were the trustees greedy or otherwise evil?
Walter Weglein November 21, 2012 at 04:07 AM
OK Julia, you are spot on...then define or explain the sense this makes!
Julia Enerson November 21, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Not to be Clintonese, but define what "this" is you want me to define or explain, Walter.
Peter Meter November 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Stuart, my bad, private property that should be treated like open space. It should remain what it is, a park, and it should be improved upon as a park!
Sara November 21, 2012 at 02:20 PM
It's near impossible to drive down plaza,fair lawn ave, and morlot at rush hour .....this is going to be terrible now.
Deleted because of harassment November 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Yes, absolutely, because the "volunteering" involved decisions that affected both the quality of life in the community as a whole and the value of homes belonging to everyone in Fair Lawn. And despite two opportunities to withdraw and reconsider, they made a choice to continue when they had an opportunity to simply ask the Radburn homeowners what they wanted to be done. Anyone willing to name the other seated trustees at the time the sale countract was drawn up?
Walter Weglein November 21, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Sara's "this" says it all!
Deleted because of harassment November 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
All open space is owned by someone so it is effectively private property that is used by the public. Both Daly Field and Archery Plaza were open space parkland since the original ownership of all the land in Radburn decided to put them to that use. Daly Field was the home field of the Fair Lawn All Sports, and used for public and civic events from the 1930's until the contamination was discovered in the 1980's when it was taken out of use for public safety reasons - and kept closed off to retain the impression that it was just empty space with no public history. Reasons behind that, remain in the mind of those that kept it that way. but when I have had a trustee tell me that it was "just a vacant lot" when I know better - and the public uses of it are a matter of public record that has been allowed to slowly fade from public memory. The front lawn of the municipal building and the high school fields are also open space and private property. Perhaps the next step will be a judge telling us we need to build apartments there because a developer wants to build it and we need more "affordable" housing. This is a very slippery slope that has been set up by this refusal to stand up on principle.
es November 21, 2012 at 03:45 PM
"This" is the situation...
The Most Interesting Man in the World November 21, 2012 at 04:42 PM
It does not matter how you phrase it, a judge in a court of law says it is private property. It is private property that was sold by a private association owner to a private developer owner, who is going to be develop it for its zoned use, which is residential. Had it been zoned commercial, there would be a new drug store, fast food outlet and a bank going in its place. Would that be better? Had the Borough of Fair Lawn purchased it from the Radburn Association, only then could it have been left a park or sports complex or whatever, as then it would have been converted to public municipal land. You could have purchased the land from RA and then donated it the borough for open space. This went to court many times and each time it was deemed private property to be developed or not, based on the decision of its owner. RA did not develop it and its new owner did. This is one of the good things about America, private owners get to decide what they want to do with their stuff.
Jake Koh November 21, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Turns out Garfield is going to start looking out prettier than Radburn. http://i.imgbox.com/adiXWZCU.png
Phil Kestenbaum November 21, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Julia, this project will add hundreds of cars to Plaza road in rush hour. This will increase the traffic back up to Fair Lawn ave. with the train station closing that road down several times an hour in rush hours. Can you picture this mess, with cars using the narrow side streets as detours to find a way out of the mess. This is both dangerous, as I said, many of these streets are without sidewalks, and adults and children walk there. It is already as it is now, quite well trafficked and it is insane to add to this, especially this level of density. Besides this, it deteriorates the quality of life. This is besides the dangerous impact of chemical emissions that you will have. This project affects thousands of people nearby including not only from Radburn but particularly Radburn residents, who had a right to expect our quality of life to come first and not be deteriorated by the group that is meant to look out for us, not make things worse.
The Most Interesting Man in the World November 21, 2012 at 07:48 PM
FYI, present council had NOTHING to do with this. However PAST COUNCIL had EVERYTHING to do with this by designating the land as residential development, the future site of affordable housing, creating an environment where the developer had to sue, then funding so many appeals that the judge deemed it harassment and handed Landmark a builder's remedy, which totally deprived FL residents out of their say on the density of the development and other unfortunate circumstances. Weak minded council past with their lack of leadership and sense of responsibility to those who elected them, plus their self-serving lawyer are totally responsible for dropping the hot potato in the laps of current municipal government. Lance, you had the option of buying that land and not developing it, therefore you cannot blame the landowners for doing what they see is best for them. They put their hand in their own pockets and paid for it and now you are mad because they did not do what you wanted to do, that is not how things work in a free country. Would you ban free speech because some may use it to criticize your intelligence or the funny way your mother dresses you? I would hope not. Freedom is better than the alternative and just like you would not like me to tell you what to do with what you own, you should not tell others what to do. Lance, please buy up all the vacant land and keep it open space. You would have blown through a pile of money, but just think of all the friends you would make.
Walter Weglein November 21, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Wouldn't bother Julia...she lives on the other side of Radburn ...
Julia Enerson November 22, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Phil, your initial argument is innacurate. You are arguing that all X cars (let's use 165 for argument's sake) will be on the road at rush hour and at Plaza, Cooper or Fair Lawn at the same time. That's not probable. I don't know what the grade of service is used for road traffic engineering, but it certainly isn't a P0.01. Much to Mr. Weglein's dismissive attitude, I do share your concern about safety. Ask me about the folks coming out of Glen Rock barrelling down Plaza Road North or those using Owen Avenue as a shortcut. As the pit guys at Formula 1 races say, "Piano, piano, piano" and using hand motions with the palm parallel to the ground. As to the groundwater/chemical contamination, the NJ DEP does have standards and does require tests, tests, tests and more tests. NJ DEP has the most stringent testing of all 50 states and you know why I know that? The first commissioner of the Department of Environmental Commission was my neighbor. Richard Sullivan personally made the NJDEP what it is still today and back in the day those restrictions put many a slipshod developer not only out of business but facing heavy fines and penalties. As to "the group", why didn't you put your name in for consideration for the Board of Trustees this year? Happy Thanksgiving.
Julia Enerson November 22, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Walter, assuming what I may think or what may bother me is faulty logic, at the best, on your part. As an aside, will I be reading an anti-Trawinski screed from you in next week's Community News?
Restored for sanity November 22, 2012 at 12:59 AM
So much of what Deleted believes simply isn't so. Some open space is owned by the government (public) and the rest is private. Radburn Association is a PRIVATE organization, not a government. The land the high school and municipal building are on, are "owned" by a government. Unless it decides to sell it, no Judge will ever order condos there. Now if we look at the properties near the 208 entrance on Berdan Ave, those are open space and owned by the government. I don't recall you complaining about those be (unsuccessfully) auctioned off. The only slippery slope I see is that your vote counts as much mine. After all the greatest threat to democracy is uneducated or misinformed citizenry.
Lee Goldberg November 22, 2012 at 01:59 AM
As a former Fair lawn resident I was dismayed to read about this proposed planned development. Talk about density! My lord...why not just black top the entire town. I have a question or two...after the Planning Board approval does the Town Council now need to adopt an ordinance or vote for final approval? Did this require a revision of the Master Plan? Please advise. Thanks.
es November 22, 2012 at 02:15 AM
@Lee The Council needs to "memorialize" it and the Building Dept. needs to review the nitty-gritty, permits and such, but essentially this is the last step in approvals before the bulldozers can roll.
Walter Weglein November 22, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Get with the program Julia...nobody reads the Community News anymore...when was the last time you saw a letter to the editor there from anyone in Fair Lawn? THIS is where the action is, right?
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Kindly do us a favor and leavce for another town, you rat.
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Please let us know of a town in the tri-state region where one can drive during rush hour without traffic.
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Seems like the same "the sky is falling" arguments we heard about Home Depot opening in Paterson. I'm still waiting for the horrible traffic jams on Fair Lawn Ave.
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Sounds like you are expecting residents in the new development to be criminals, pyromaniacs and quite sickly.
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Can someone explain to me why a person living in a less expensive, "affordable" apartment, should have the same size place, or same view, as someone who is paying full market rate?
Jules Vernon December 03, 2012 at 02:25 PM
If all the naysayers really cared about Radburn and Fair Lawn, they should have done everything in their power to block stores like Deals from opening. That is more responsible than anything else for lowering the value of Radburn and making it and Fair Lawn, look like lower end residential areas.
Mike Fair Lawn February 24, 2013 at 10:18 AM
Agree with Bergenbot. I'm glad to hear Nunn's restaurant Picnic closed its doors. Hopefully there were a few spiteful Radburn residents to thank for boycotting it. Karma got her.

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