Zoning board members approved the addition of two platform tennis courts; expansion of parking from 32 to 59 spaces, which will be marked for the first time; and enlargements of the summer tennis clubhouse and the winter “paddle hut.” Residents objected over noise and light concerns.
The Morristown (N.J.) Field Club won approvals for an expansion that neighbors contested over six meetings stretching back to February, Morristown Green reported.
“It’s always great to see residents take an interest in the town and their neighborhoods,” zoning board Chairman Steve Pylypchuk said after hearing nearly four hours of virtual testimony on Wednesday.
Established in 1881, the private club has made few changes since moving to its current location during World War II, Morristown Green reported. By a unanimous vote, zoning board members approved the addition of two platform tennis courts; expansion of parking from 32 to 59 spaces, which will be marked for the first time; and enlargements of the summer tennis clubhouse and the winter “paddle hut.”
Cesspools for those facilities will be replaced with hookups to the town sewer system, and drains will capture storm runoff, Morristown Green reported. The private club and town officials also will explore adding a crosswalk to a property which shares parking with the club for special events.
Ten residents testified via Zoom on August 3, Morristown Green reported. Throughout the hearings, they raised concerns about noise, and about the harsh glare of lighting from tennis courts and car lights, a problem they said worsens when trees shed their leaves.
“It seems to me that people have testified that this is something that’s really going to be so nice for the club members. But it doesn’t seem to be so nice for the neighbors,” said resident Marcia Graydon.
“We are entitled to some peace in our residential neighborhood,” said Christine Miller, a 20-year resident who has clashed with the club about court-side music.
Susan Landau added: “We can improve the club, but at what cost to the surrounding community?”
Defending the club as a jewel that should engender community pride, the project’s attorney, former Mayor Jay DeLaney Jr., dangled a “what if?” alternative: Selling the property for a housing development, Morristown Green reported.
Pylypchuk acknowledged residents’ concerns as well as the club’s ability and desire to perform upgrades, unlike many sports facilities that fall into disrepair, Morristown Green reported.
“This is a significant improvement,” the chairman said.
Some friction is inevitable, said board member James Bednarz, a member of Morristown’s Kellogg Club, Morristown Green reported.
“We shouldn’t go away thinking it’s going to be perfect, because people are people. Sometimes the rules get away from people,” he said.
Yet such organizations are part of the town’s historic fabric, Morristown Green reported. They provide valuable opportunities for socializing and introduce nonresident members to the town’s restaurants and shops, Bednarz said.
“These are good things for the community,” involving people who give back in myriad ways, he said.
The zoning board and club agreed to a handful of conditions meant to quell some of the concerns, Morristown Green reported. Existing courts have 32 lights, and the two new ones will bring 16 more. Now all lights must shut off by 9:30 p.m. and stay off through dawn hours. Lights also must adhere to “Dark Sky” specifications to minimize spillover.
Strategic additions of trees and fencing should screen headlights in parking areas, Pylypchuk said. Creation of marked spaces also should eliminate haphazard parking, Morristown Green reported.
Noise from pickleball also has vexed neighbors, Morristown Green reported. The club removed plans for new pickleball courts from its application. However, as a “nonconforming use” that predates modern zoning, the club retains the right to re-stripe existing tennis courts for the hybrid sport.
DeLaney presented testimony from a planner, a civil engineer, an architect and a club representative, Morristown Green reported. Some work may be delayed because of supply chain issues, according to the club.