Bill Stems from Refusal to Allow Youth Soccer on Hammonton Farm
(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly Democrats Sgt. Robert Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, John Burzichelli and Whip Wilson 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 — was approved 67-2-1 Monday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-3257) provides that a recreational use would be allowed on lands that are subject to a Pinelands development credit deed restriction and located within an agricultural production area in the Pinelands area. For a recreational use to qualify under the bill, the recreational use must involve only minimal or temporary impact on the agricultural or horticultural use of the lands, not include the development of any permanent structures on any lands in agricultural or horticultural use and be of a temporary nature.
In April, 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.
Andrzejczak recently toured the farm as part of a series of statewide agriculture tours he is hosting to help members of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee get a first-hand look at the various types of research, farming and food processing that makes up the backbone of the state’s agriculture and agro tourism industries.
“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 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 help benefit of the community, the businesses and everyone involved.”
“Youth soccer tournaments are great events for everyone involved, and events like these shouldn’t be help 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,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). ” 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 will now be referred to the Senate.
The multimedia package consists of a video of comments from Andrzejczak and Allen Carter, a consultant to Tuckahoe Turf Farms, discussing the Pinelands Commission restricting youth soccer tournaments at the farm and Andrzejczak’s legislation and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments is appended below:
Allen Carter, consultant for Tuckahoe Turf Farms:
“We’re an 800-acre sod farm, located in Hammonton, New Jersey. We grow turf grass for the sports fields. Many of our clients are professional NFL teams, Major League Baseball and minor league teams, along with local high schools. We also do residential work and golf courses, community parks and so forth, and we’re having issues with whether we can continue playing soccer on our fields.”
Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak (D-Cape May), Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman:
“Tuckahoe Turf Farm has soccer tournaments that they hold here. It brings in people from all over the state and out of state. These tournaments are very important for the local community: they put people in restaurants; they put people in hotels; people are coming here and spending money.”
“And the soccer actually brings parents, and those parents become potential customers. And we’re directly marketing our material this way. And it’s a unique way for a sod farm to be able to do that.”
“The Pinelands Commission has a problem with the soccer tournaments. They feel that it’s affecting their overall goal of protecting the water table in the Pinelands.
“And I’ve been out here for a few hours today, and I tell you what, it’s some of the most beautiful, pristine land that I’ve seen in New Jersey and kids playing soccer on this amazing grass will have zero effect on the Pinelands.
“So, we have legislation go through my committee, in agriculture, [to] force the Pinelands Commission to allow Tuckahoe Turf Farm to have these tournaments on their property.”
“We were happy to show them that we are still a farm. We play soccer games on here occasionally on the weekends, but we continue farming.”
“And hopefully by next time this year, the Tuckahoe Turf Farm will continue to have these soccer tournaments.”