• Joseph F. Berenato

Turf farm extra soccer dates OK’d


Allen Carter informed the board of the role that soccer tournaments have played in bolstering their turf sales. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Planning Board held their regular meeting at 7 p.m. on June 2 via Zoom teleconferencing software.


There were two matters before the board.


The first matter heard was Application No. 7-21PB, submitted by Betts and Betts, LLC. The applicant was seeking to amend a previously approved site plan for 450 N. Myrtle St., Block 5001/Lots 5-7/AP, Block 5002/Lot 11/AP, Block 5601/Lots 1-9/AP and Block 5602/Lots 3-7, excluding Lot 4.01.


Attorney Bill Harrison appeared before the board, with testimony offered by Tuckahoe Turf Farms’ business administrator, Allen Carter, as well as by Ashley Wells, the Executive Director of Tournament Operations for EDP Soccer.


Carter informed the board of the role that soccer tournaments have played in bolstering their turf sales.


“With soccer, with the amount of people that are coming there, I can tell you that many of these folks are influential people that have positions such as yourselves—on committees, school boards, mayors, council members, etc.—and when they go back and they’re looking to redo their fields where their kids play at home, they go, ‘Why can’t we have a field such as where we played soccer with EDP in Hammonton, N.J.?’ All of a sudden, we get phone calls,” Carter said.


Harrison asked Carter to explain to the board why the applicant has reappeared.


“With last year’s COVID, EDP made arrangements that had far less fields spread out more, and it did not put a burden on our turf grass like we were getting before ... Now, with the reduction in the amount of fields for a tournament, the damage doesn’t take place. It’s a lot easier to get that field ready for harvest and sold,” Carter said.


Harrison then inquired if the applicant was seeking any other modifications to the conditions of the previous site plan approval besides allowing more events and allowing events on additional weekends. Carter answered in the negative.


“The way that EDP put it together was that the number of hours would still remain the same; they’re just spread out more with less people at one time ... We’re asking for three additional weekends that may butt up against other weekends, but less number of fields and less people on those fields,” Carter said.


Board solicitor Joseph P. McGroarty explained further, noting there was a condition in the previous agreement that said, “13 events a year and not more than two consecutive weekends.”


“The proposal is that it would be moved from 13 to 16 events, and go from not two consecutive weekends but three consecutive weekends. They’re the only changes they are requesting,” McGroarty said.


Wells discussed some of the changes in the way that Tuckahoe Turf Farm has been utilized from pre- to post-pandemic.


“The biggest difference is that, during the pandemic, we evaluated everything, from the number of people onsite, the timing and the spacing in between games, traffic flows, the number of fields in use, the field spacing within the farm—everything was re-evaluated, and we’ve come out of it in a positive way,” Wells said.


Carter said that there would be no changes in the way that parking and traffic are handled in the area. Wells explained further, noting the impact that using fewer fields has had on traffic.


“It’s definitely helped. We’ve communicated better, in terms of times that people should come in, how long they should be in before their first game, and that will continue as well. In the past, we had teams play a game, they would then sit out for two games and hang around within the farm, and then they would leave. During the pandemic, we had teams play two quick back-to-back games, leave the facility and the next group came in. We’ll be doing a hybrid of both of those moving forward,” Wells said.


Wells said that they have been working with the Hammonton Police Department, coordinating weeks prior to each event, as well as with the police departments of Winslow Twp. and Waterford Twp.


Wells also discussed a week-long event that is scheduled to occur this year.


“We were successful in obtaining a bid to host the U.S. regionals, along with Tuckahoe Turf Farm. Teams from I think 15 states will be coming to the Hammonton area to play in an event. The event runs from June 25 until July 1 ... we are projecting an economic impact, just through hotels, gas, food and restaurants, etc. of around $10 million that week,” Wells said, noting that this is the first time the regional event has been held in New Jersey.


McGroarty said that previous agreements involved a traffic study being conducted onsite to gauge the impact, and Harrison said that the applicants would be amenable to conducting another such study. Board member Jonathan Baske noted that this year may be ideal for a peak traffic study.


“Post-pandemic, everybody wants to be outside this year. I think, as far as getting peak traffic counts and everything, coming out of the pandemic, for future planning, I think would be ideal,” Baske said.


Board member Michael Hozik concurred.


“This year is likely to be a good peak year, or at least give us a sense, and, with a big regional tournament, maybe that’s when to look at,” Hozik said.


The application was approved.


The second matter heard was Application No. 3-21PB, submitted by Joseph LaSasso and Robert Weisbecker. The applicants were seeking a minor subdivision for 60 Plymouth Rd. and 70 Plymouth Rd., Block 4801/Lots 4 and 4.01.


The applicants sought a minor subdivision to change lot lines between their two properties with new lots to be established and no building to be done. The land would remain as it has been for more than 40 years.


Testimony was heard by both applicants, as well as by Robert Monson, land surveyor.


“I’m just selling a piece of property to my neighbor, who’s been using it for a while. We’re in agreement, and finally we’re just finalizing it to put it in his name,” Weisbecker said.


LaSasso agreed.


“I’m just buying a little piece of property, 130 by about 55, and that’s it,” LaSasso said.


McGroarty noted that the engineer’s report said that the expansion of a non-conforming lot on Lot 4 required a D2 variance, and as such testimony would be required regarding the positive and negative criteria necessary for such a variance.


“The positives would be that the two applicants in this application would like to do a land transfer that would benefit Lot 4.01,” McGroarty said, inquiring of Monson as to whether he could identify any negative repercussions of the subdivision.


“None,” Monson said.


McGroarty also noted that the engineer’s report identified the need for a C variance for a side yard setback for an auxiliary structure.


“The owners could speak to that, but those sheds could always be moved if they’re not within the setback,” Monson said.


Board engineer William Loughney, however, said that such a move may not be required.


“I’m not sure they would have to be moved if the board were to give them a variance for them,” Loughney said.


Board member Gordon Pherribo, however, expressed concern.


“These two guys may not be the same people that always own this property. The next person may have to deal with something they shouldn’t have to deal with,” Pherribo said.


Loughney said that, once the lot lines are moved, the shed in question would be on LaSasso’s property, roughly three feet from the property line and out of setback compliance. McGroarty inquired as to whether LaSasso would be amenable to moving the shed, which is a non-permanent structure.


“No. I’m out here; we’re not bothering nobody. I’ve been here 40 years, and you want me to move a shed. My daughter is going to be the next owner of this house. She’s living here now and she’s going to buy it,” LaSasso said.


Pherribo reiterated his concern for the potential that exists with future buyers, which McGroarty validated.


“This protection is actually for the adjoining property, who would be impacted by it being too close. Obviously, it’s not a negative impact upon Mr. LaSasso, so, even though his family may be in line for this property forever and a day, the neighboring property—which this would be too close to—may have an objection,” McGroarty said, noting that it was within the board’s authority to grant the variance.


The application was approved.


The following resolution was also passed:


Ronald Berenato, Application No. 8-21PB—Minor subdivision for 625 Ninth Street, Block 1403/Lot 8/Zone RR. The applicant was seeking to create three new lots to be known as 8.01, 8.02 and 8.03 plus the original lot. The property consists of 19.71 acres. The applicant proposed three new single-family homes on the new lots, with the remaining fourth lot to remain as agricultural use.


The planning board regularly holds meetings on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled to be held June 16.