The Ridge Baseball Club showed up at Tuesday's Township Committee seeking permission to install artifical turf on the infields of the four athletic fields at the baseball complex off Valley Road — and ended up discussing parking disputes and other concerns by neighbors.
The proposal, submitted in November, according to the agenda, was up for consideration before the Township Committee following preparation of a proposal that has been in the works for more than a year, club members said.
"We spent $10,000 to $15,000 on studies and a map, and did everything zoning and engineering [departments] told us to do," Ron Campione, the Ridge Baseball Club's secretary, said after the Township Committee voted Tuesday to set up a subcommittee to take a closer look at the plan.
"We have to understand it fully," including hearing construction plans, Township Committeewoman Mary Pavlini said during the meeting.
The club, which offers Cal Ripkin baseball leagues for boys and girls ages five through 12, is proposing to install the artificial turf so games can be played soon after inclement weather and not miss games because of rain-outs, and also improve the quality of the fields overall, according to the proposal and club members.
But when the proposal came up for a vote for permission from the Township Committee — since the township owns the land and leases it to the baseball club — Deputy Mayor John Carpenter proposed that it first be placed before a township subcommittee made up of neighbors, members of the Baseball Club and the Township Committee.
The club members were asked to contact the township clerk to arrange the meeting.
Carpenter said the committee had quickly approved a request last year to rename the Little League teams as Cal Ripkin baseball, a change that was supposed to have no impact on parking or other impacts on the neighborhood. However, he said that complaints followed from neighbors soon afterwards.
"This time, we want to be a little more cautious," Carpenter said.
"I know that we have received many letters from both sides," said Mayor Carolyn Gaziano.
She said following the meeting that the township had received about a dozen complaints about the complex, where she said use appears to have intensified and the season extended.
The biggest complaint has been about parking, she said, with neighbors sending in photos of cars parked along both sides of streets such as Wedgewood Drive, and even blocking driveways.
Dan Spina, vice president of Ridge Baseball, said the switch to Cal Ripkin affected the type of baseball played, and not operations at the field. "It had nothing to do with the number of games played."
Spina and other club officials said they had reached out to neighbors and even voluntarily placed orange cones out on one side of nearby streets to alleviate parking issues. Nevertheless, he said he and other club members will try to work out issued on the playing field.
Campione said that fewer games would be rescheduled if games could be played within a half hour after rain on the surf field.
"I don't know if we can afford to put it off if we want to do it this year," Spina added.
Campione said the complex is a community gathering place for families who watch the games and sometimes enjoy dinner at the same time.