Bill Stems from Refusal to Allow Youth Soccer on Hammonton Farm
Legislation Assembly Democrats Sgt. Robert Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo and John Burzichelli sponsored to allow recreational activity, such as youth soccer, on lands protected by Pinelands development restrictions – a bill prompted by the Pinelands Commission’s recent refusal to allow a farm owner in South Jersey to host youth soccer tournaments on the grounds – now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill (A-3257) would authorize a county agriculture development board or the State Agriculture Development Committee to determine whether lands that are subject to a Pinelands development credit deed restriction and located within an agricultural production area in the Pinelands area may be used for “farm-based recreational activity.” Under the bill, such activity may include field sports, provided no permanent athletic fields are established on the land.
In April 2014, the Pinelands Commission told the owners of Tuckahoe Turf Farms, a sod farm in Hammonton Township, that youth soccer tournaments violated a deed restriction limiting its recreational use to “low recreation” activities, described as hiking, hunting, canoeing, horseback riding and bicycling, among others.
“We’d hate to see the kids not be able to play, or to see families dissuaded from visiting this region, because of red tape that can be fixed with a little common sense, ” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “As long as the activity doesn’t damage the environment and is temporary, we see no reason why it shouldn’t be allowed. In the end, events like these benefit the community, the businesses and everyone involved.”
“Youth soccer tournaments are great events for everyone involved, and events like these shouldn’t be prey to bureaucracy and red tape,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “It can be frustrating to everyone to see nonsensical regulations hold up events that benefit the community. This bill is a common sense fix and does the right thing for everyone.”
“If activities such as horseback riding and bicycling are allowed, then so should events like youth soccer,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “Let’s cut through this red tape and do the right thing for our youth. We should be encouraging activities such as youth athletic tournaments, not putting obstacles in their way.”
The bill would expand what qualifies as a low intensity recreational use, and would allow certain recreational activities, such as youth soccer, to qualify as a low intensity recreational use within an agricultural production area. In addition, the bill provides that a landowner engaging in, or allowing, a recreational use meeting the criteria set forth in the bill would not be in violation of any Pinelands development credit deed restriction related to allowable recreational uses on the lands.
The bill gained unanimous approval from the Assembly.