The Bergen County soccer club Cedar Stars Academy’s proposal to renovate the two fields at Pennington Park for $2 million in return for 30-year priority scheduling for the club was delayed by council members on Wednesday night.
Council members were for the most part concerned about the length of the agreement. The agreement would not expire until 2046.
“30 years is a very long time,” said council president William McKoy. An initial 15-year agreement with options to renew every 5-year thereafter was proposed by at-large councilman Kenneth Morris.
Morris said the agreement would include a clause that would ensure the city does not “unreasonably” deny the renewal. He said his proposal benefits both the club and the city by providing each an option to exit out of the agreement if things do not work as intended.
The council was all but ready to approve the agreement after mayor Jose “Joey” Torres provided a presentation to the governing body last week. However, sentiments have clearly changed since the mayor’s presentation.
In that presentation, Torres highlighted in a memo the scholarships the club will provide to needy city students ranges from $1.5 to $3 million over the term of the agreement. The club will enroll 300 city children into its program.
The club is also providing equipment, a Greensgroomer, to public works to maintain the fields. The department will conduct weekly maintenance at the fields. The turf company will provide instruction to public works as to the manner in which the fields should be serviced.
Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, wanted clarity over the priority scheduling the club is seeking. The agreement before the council will have the club using the fields Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. as well as during a portion of the weekend, according to officials.
“It would in no way block use for city recreation,” said recreation director Benjie Wimberly, who supports the agreement for the opportunities it will open for young people. “We still have the oversight of the permit process.”
Council members wanted a scheduling conflict resolution mechanism in the agreement.
Wimberly, a popular New Jersey assemblyman and even more popular coach, was called by the business administrator after council members began to ask questions about the agreement, which was expected smooth passage.
McKoy pointed out the resolution before the council is vague in defining “priority.” The resolution states: “Cedar Stars shall be entitled to priority usage and non-priority usage of the improvements on the property for a period of thirty” years.
The council president wants a more concise agreement that sets out the term without employing contradictory language. There was also the clause about the club refurbishing the field twice which was vague.
McKoy said he wants that clause refined so that it makes it clear the field is being refurbished twice after the initial construction of the two soccer fields. Paul Golden, vice-president of business development at Capelli New York, an apparel company, which owns the club, confirmed the fields would be installed and then twice refurbished.
The city’s law director Domenick Stampone said the exact years could be inserted. For example, initial construction would take place in year 1 and the refurbishment in years 10 and 20 of the agreement.
The city also has to contribute $200,000 to install a fence and secure the improvements being donated by the club. $100,000 will be paid on the start of the work and another $100,000 after the work has been completed.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, said residents are complaining, “Don’t give our park away.”
“We’re not giving our park away,” responded Wimberly.
The two fields — which are little more than dirt and rocks — in the agreements are in desperate need for repair.
Council members will vote on the agreement on Tuesday night at a special meeting.