Shedler Project Reignites Debate on Historical Preservation and Safety

In a recent Ridgewood Council meeting, the primary discussion revolved around the Shedler property redevelopment. This project aims to combine historical preservation with modern amenities, a direction that has received a lot of support from council members, including Evan Weitz and Siobhan Winograd.

A highlight of the redevelopment plan is the creation of a full-sized turf field at the Shedler property. Village engineer, Chris Rudis-Houser, shared a layout that includes a multi-purpose field, rain gardens to manage storm water, and a revised parking area. These plans reflect a commitment to balance historical preservation with functional space use, including the preservation of a sugar maple tree and the introduction of safety features such as timber guide rails and handicap-friendly parking provisions.

However, the choice of turf for the field has become a contentious point due to concerns about potential health risks and environmental impacts. While a more eco-friendly artificial grass surface is favored, community members raised concerns over potential hazards including heat strokes and carcinogenic exposures. This has led to calls for further research into alternative materials for the turf.

The council also discussed the addition of visual barriers like trees and no-mow meadows to maintain historical harmony with the surrounding area. This initiative emphasizes a softer park outline without fences and lights, aiming for a gentle integration with the local historical landscape.

The engagement with Peter Primavera Partners LLC, the firm tasked with overseeing the project’s historical aspect, became another central topic in the discussions. The renewal of their contract sparked controversy due to discrepancies in the firm’s resume and doubts regarding the authenticity of their claimed past involvements. This has prompted the council to advocate for careful scrutiny of the firm’s submissions in future project phases.

Community members expressed frustration regarding the slow progress in meeting election promises, especially in the areas of environmental conservation and flood management. They called for more transparency and diligence in the contractor selection process.

Concerns were also raised over the operational costs associated with the unresolved utility status of a house on the project site, with many urging for a swift resolution. Despite these hurdles, the majority support moving forward with the Shedler project. Mayor Paul Vagianos, who supports a development approach that respects historical values while embracing modern amenities, emphasized this sentiment.

Responding to community member Rohan de Silva, Mayor Vagianos promised improvements to facilitate better ADA compliance, including upgrades to the council chamber’s sound system to assist individuals with disabilities.

In the wake of encouraging community participation, a series of events were unveiled during the Village Manager’s report. Highlights included a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ravine PFAS treatment plant and a diverse slate of events encompassing a music fest and a hazardous waste collection day. The “Adopt the Sapling” initiative was introduced, encouraging residents to care for a tree, fostering a greener community. Lorraine Reynolds invited volunteers for Project Pride, which aims to beautify the village with autumn plants on September 24th.

Discussion on the parking situation saw contrasting views, with the central topic being the annual review of parking permit prices. While there was a proposal to halt the suggested hourly parking rate increment for 2024, the idea of increasing permit parking rates gained traction. Matters of enforcement difficulties and potential revenue losses formed a part of this discussion.

Various other community projects and services were discussed, including a proposal for an archaeological study at the Smeritzky-Shedler House and updates on styrofoam densifier services, which saw a collaborative agreement involving multiple municipalities.

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