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Guest What's this all about

Article below was posted on www.northjersey.com. It does mention that the stadium will be built in Harriosn but could this possibly be a way out of Harrison?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004



PEQUANNOCK - Mounir Badaan, developer of the proposed MetroStars soccer complex, is so confident work will begin this summer, he's held a news conference saying as much.

But James Codiroli, whose back yard borders the project, says not so fast.

Codiroli, of Madison Street, filed suit in state Superior Court this month claiming there were irregularities in Planning Board procedures when the board approved the application for the 42-acre site at Alexander Avenue and Route 23 south.

"They only let the residents go through the charade of talking, but this town wanted this project, and they were going to let it through no matter what they were told," Codiroli said. "The whole proceeding was like a kangaroo court."

Codiroli's lawsuit and a pending state permit application may be the last hurdles facing the $25 million complex.

After several heated meetings this year, the Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan for the complex, which will be built in two phases.

The first would include two outdoor soccer fields with 60-foot-high lighting, an indoor soccer field, and offices and a locker room. Later, a hotel, office building, upscale restaurant, indoor ice rink, fitness center, and a pro shop would be built.

The complex would bring in about $520,000 in property taxes, and the MetroStars front office has emphasized that the community is welcome to use the complex.

But neighbors, worried about flooding and traffic, immediately voiced objections after the Township Council changed zoning on the land to accommodate the application. The new legal action continues that opposition.

Badaan said he isn't troubled by the lawsuit, and feels that in time, the township residents will welcome the complex.

"People file lawsuits all the time. It doesn't mean a thing," Badaan said late last week. "I don't even know who this person is. I haven't seen the suit, but I hope he has lots of money and is ready for a fight.

"Many residents hated Cedar Crest retirement village when it was proposed, and now it continues to grow and everyone loves it," said Badaan, referring to the seniors community that opened in 2001 at Route 23 and Cotluss Road. "I've hired all kinds of experts to address every issue, they are doing everything legal and in the best possible way.

Township officials, although supportive of the project, voiced doubts about the scheduled groundbreaking this summer.

"There is still much that needs to be done, including the DEP signing off on this project," Deputy Mayor Edward Englebart said. "I don't think this is going to happen as quickly as Mr. Badaam says it is. There is still a lot that needs to be done."

Planning Board attorney Richard Brigliadoro did not return repeated phone calls to his office.

The site, once a popular swimming area known as McDonald's Beach, will have an entrance and an exit on Route 23, but a one-way entrance will also be constructed off Alexander Avenue for emergency and police vehicles.

One of the major points of contention is whether flooding will get worse in this area, a flat parcel that already spills tons of water into neighbors' yards during heavy storms. Badaan's plan calls for hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra drainage pipes that will control the water released from two ponds already on site.

But an expert hired by residents said that plan is not adequate and that flooding will get worse after construction of the complex.

"I used the reports the developer submitted, and based on those numbers, I think the water will flow off that site faster after development has occurred than before it," said Qizhong Guo, a water resource engineer and associate professor at Rutgers University. "Their plan is inadequate, and I think the whole plan needs to be redesigned."

Codiroli's suit, filed in Morristown, claims the Planning Board did not let Guo finish his report, and it did not contest what he claims is an incorrect statement by a Badaan consultant that no traffic survey was required by the state. Codiroli wants the approval declared null and void. He is representing himself in the lawsuit.

Ultimately, the state Department of Environmental Protection may have the last word on the flooding issue. A stream encroachment permit is pending from the DEP, and the project cannot move forward without it.

Badaam said he sees no trouble with getting the permit, and said he hasn't received any word that it will be denied.

Codiroli is not the only resident opposed to the project. Steve Petrarca doesn't live near the site, but still thinks it will have a negative impact on the town.

"We're going to have a large increase in traffic, which will cause a need for more police, plus the wear and tear on the roads," Petrarca said. "And once this system is hooked up to the sewer plant, we'll be at capacity and have to spend more money to hook up any other users by buying back usage from the plant."

The complex would be used by MetroStars soccer players from April through the end of November. Their games, currently played at Giants Stadium, will eventually be played in Harrison, where a new stadium is being built. The team hopes to be practicing in Pequannock by October 2005.

"We want everyone to understand that these fields will be available to other groups, we're not going to chain this all up and keep it off limits," said Nick Sakiewicz, the MetroStars' president and general manger. "Of course we'll have to charge a nominal fee to help with the upkeep, but we want kids to use this facility.

"We are a grass-roots organization, and we get our support and financing from our fans and advertisers," Sakiewicz said. "Our sport is growing, and we want to be where there are robust soccer clubs. Pequannock is surrounded by robust soccer organizations."

The MetroStars offer several youth soccer programs in Pequannock, including camps during the summer. Their "Score at School" program - where students receive game tickets and other rewards for reaching goals set by teachers and school administrators - already has 15,000 students in North Jersey involved, and will be available in the township and surrounding communities.

E-mail: williamsb@northjersey.com

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