FOR THE KIDS!
The rallying cry "FOR THE KIDS" has motivated New Milford residents to seemingly do the impossible and make it routine.
Thirty years ago, when we moved into town, I was so impressed with the sense of community that I felt here in New Milford, it was palpable. You felt it everywhere--a feeling of place, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than just yourself.
When my children started to participate in Little League,soft ball, Junior Football, cheerleading, it was bigger than life. Men and woman volunteers, from all backgrounds, all ages, some home grown, others from different times and places, all coming together for the kids.
Just take a moment and think about what it takes to organize all the activities, maintain the fields, equipment, raise money for uniforms; it's a daunting task but New Milford's volunteers can do it in a heartbeat.
Now there exists the greatest threat to our "KIDS," in my opinion, in the 30 years that I have lived here--the proposed development of the United Water property directly across the street from the High School.
The 13-acre property has been the subject of a Board of Adjustment application for the past year. An out-of-town developer is proposing to build a 70,500 sq. ft. regional shopping center with a bank, an apartment building and seemingly 500 parking spaces on the environmentally sensitive property that has never had any development built upon it. In fact, it may be unsuitable for development due to the past history as a dumping ground for United Water's waste products, heavy metals and sludge.
A small group of residents started to attend zoning board meetings and quickly realized that this a very serious issue for this town. High priced lawyers, engineers, planners, tax and traffic experts all making their appearance before the board, extolling the benefits of this development.
The small group of residents banded together and SOD (Stop Over Development) was formed. We attend meetings, challenge every word of testimony, argue against the assertions by the developer that this will not adversely effect the quality of life in this town.
SOD STRONGLY DISAGREES, as do many residents (and our growing members attest to that fact), just having a very successful fund raiser. We are raising money to hire a lawyer, planner, what ever it will take to defeat this proposal.
SOD, unfortunately, is the only group that is taking this issue head on. The Mayor and Council took a passive role until SOD called their actions into question. Instead of helping, the Mayor and Council was actually encouraging this development as some relief to our tax burden and an increase in tax ratable's. How misguided.
SOD, however resourceful, can't do all the heavy lifting. SOD cannot wait a moment longer for the Board of Education, the PTA, parents of high school students and the students themselves to attend the meetings.
The High School stands the most too lose if this development is approved. Just think about the ramifications. Two to three years of noisy and disruptive construction, the dust, dirt and construction equipment in and out. When completed, 35 to 50 delivery trucks a day, all driving past the school, past students walking to and from class, hundreds of cars a day putting students in danger.
Let us not forget the lost opportunity to purchase this property, relocate the track and the football field out of the flood waters and give our students the recreational programs that they deserve. If we defeat this development we can find the money, somehow, someway to keep this open space part of our open space.
Come to the Board of Adjustment meeting on February 28 at 7:30 pm! Remember, this time it really is "FOR THE KIDS!"
Michael J. Gadaleta
SOD member; former New Milford Councilman 1999-2004; Council President 2003-2004