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Township Council Bans Sound Systems From Middlebush Park

9-23-14 meeting3

Bryan Bidlack of Charles Street told the Township Council Sept. 23 that he and his family could not have a conversation in their backyard on a recent Sunday because of noise from Middlebush Park.

In a move that was met with a standing ovation and cries of “thank you,” the Township Council Sept. 22 voted to prohibit any type of sound system in Middlebush Park.

The vote was not unanimous. Township Councilman Carl R.A. Wright and Deputy Mayor Brian Regan voted against the proposal, while Mayor Brian Levine sided with the remaining Democrats in voting for it.

The township’s Pop Warner organization was hoping for a permanent sound system in the park, which members said would boost morale among players.

But Middlebush residents mobilized against the proposal, appearing at council and other committee and commission meetings since May to speak against it.

The Sept. 22 vote came after several hours of discussion from Middlebush residents and council members about the original proposal and a new version of it which would have allowed portable sound systems in the park. That proposal emanated from the council’s land use committee.

Residents wanted to no part of a sound system, permanent or temporary. Many attendees complained that the organization had been using a portable system for the past several weekends.

Bryan Bidlack of Charles Street told the council that two Sundays ago his family could not talk around the breakfast table because of the noise coming from the park.

“It’s tragic,” he said. “Who approved the use of the sound system over the last two weeks?”

Neil Strotman of Gauguin Way said the park’s football fields “make it impossible” for he and his family to spend time in their back yard.

“This Sunday was really a slap in the face,” he said.

John Faraone of Shilling Drive asked the council to ban the portable speakers as well as the permanent kind.

“I don’t know if you know how disturbing it is to the residents,” he said.

“No one is here explaining why it’s so important to have (speakers) on the site,” said Mary Moran of Hunter’s Crossing Road. Referring to the fact that the council has been discussing the sound system since May, she asked, “How many more weeks of the same conversation do you need before you make a decision?”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said she understood that frustration and apologized for the council having taken so long to make a decision.

“It’s a travesty that we let this go on as long as we have,” she said.

Francois said that although she “supports youth … the need for recreation and … the need for parks,” the amplification of sound “be it permanent or be it portable” has no place in parks.

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said he did not believe there was a need in the park for a permanent sound system, but, “if there’s a way that certain announcement could be done at certain games at certain times and it could be controlled, I’m open to explore that.”

“But running a P.A. system from 9 a.m. to five at night, I’m against that,” he said.

Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At-Large) said that a sound system that affects neighbors to the park should not be installed. He said he was still holding out hope that a “high-tech” solution, which would keep the sound within the parameters of the park, could be found.

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) said that he’d been told residents had no problems with the portable sound system being used by the Pop Warner organization.

“Tonight I have learned differently,” he said.

Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) said he was against any sound system that would affect neighbors, “and it doesn’t matter if it’s on wheels or mounted on a pole.”

Wright, who has championed the idea of a sound system in the park, said that a portable sound system was used last season and did not elicit any complaints from neighbors.

Responding to residents who said they bought their homes in the area for the peace and quiet, Wright said that Middlebush Park had been on the books for years and “when you bought your homes, you should have known what was going in there.”

The crowd roared with indignation when said that it was he who had been announcing the games the past two weeks over the portable sound system.

At Wright’s request, township manager Bob Vornlocker read the results of decibel meter tests conducted by a township police officer during a football game. The tests were taken in the morning, and did not register above the township’s 65 decibel limit for sound at property lines.

That didn’t sit well with residents, some of whom yelled that the peak noise was later in the afternoon.

Mayor Brian Levine ( R), said the township does need recreational sites, “but I think we blew it on this one.”

“I can’t imagine installing a sound system in that park,” he said. “The residents don’t want it, and it’s not going to get more kids into the program.”

Wright moved a resolution that would only ban permanent sound systems from the park. After  a short discussion, Councilwoman Roz Sherman – who had repeatedly expressed her opposition to a sound system in the park – moved to amend the resolution to include portable sound systems.

Sherman’s amendment was passed by a 7-2 vote, as was the underlying resolution.

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