Hearing Set for March 16 on Controversial Johnson & Johnson Heirs' Heliport

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The battle over maintaining the peace and quiet of a rural New Jersey community has been going on for more than a year. Anti-heliport signs have mysteriously disappeared from private property, letters have been written to the editors of local newspapers, and the future of the community is now in the hands of the Land Use Board.

"The proposed heliport will have a significant negative impact on our environment, our safety, as well as our quality of life and the tranquilty we all enjoy." -- Chris and Lois Kennedy

More than 50 signs protesting the Johnson & Johnson Co. heirs’ application for a heliport on their Cedar Lane Farm in Oldwick have been stolen from private properties.

“They have disappeared almost as fast as they went up,” according to Charlyne Schaub, a spokesperson for those opposing the heliport. “In some cases, ‘No Trespassing’ signs also have been torn down.”

The heated controversy that has been dividing this quiet community of 31.8 square miles for more than a year will come to a head at a meeting of the Township Land Use Board at 7:30 p.m. March 16 in the Mountainville Meeting Hall at 60 Water St.

Several neighbors have written letters to the editor of local newspapers in protest of the heliport that threatens to end their peaceful way of life in an area where scenic roads are preserved and residents ride their horses down the street.

“This application is out of alignment with the current master plan and most certainly will jeopardize the common good of our entire community,” Chris and Lois Kennedy of Oldwick wrote in their letter to the Recorder Community Newspapers.

“The proposed heliport will have a significant negative impact on our environment, our safety, as well as our quality of life and tranquility we all enjoy. Our neighbors share our concern that property values could decline as a result of the helicopter noise in this otherwise rural and peaceful area. The application is inconsistent with all that we value in this community.”

The reason for the opposition’s outrage is simple. The people who live in this quiet community of 31.8 square miles moved to the country to get away from the noise and crowding of big cities. The area prides itself on land preservation, a wildlife sanctuary and a peaceful place to farm and ride horses. It is laced with horse trails and is home to stables, fox hunting and a miniature horse farm.

James L. Johnson, owner of Cedar Lane Farm and one of the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, has asked the township for a zoning variance in order to construct a heliport that will be “used among other things to provide a landing area for the buyers of the cattle bred on Cedar Lane Farm.”

Many neighbors are opposed to the heliport because they don’t want to open the door to disturbing the peace they enjoy. Schaub noted some of the opposition’s points:

The Somerset Airport in an easy drive – 7.64 miles away in Bedminster.

A helicopter produces 105 decibels of noise compared to 100 decibels by a jackhammer and 80 decibels of an accelerating motorcycle. Each 10 decibel increase equals 10 times the noise. The homes and farms are in a valley and sound bounces off the hills amplifying the noise.

Horses are unpredictable and easily can be spooked by noise. Tewksbury always has been horse friendly. The township recognizes this on its Website, warning drivers: “Please do not beep the horn or make a sudden gesture that could startle the horses and cause an accident.”

Homestead Miniature Horse Farm in Oldwick offers horses and carriages as therapy for children suffering from life altering illnesses such as cancer. Owners Chris and Lois Kennedy are concerned that the potential for spooked horses could harm the children who have limited strength and mobility.

A variance that will allow this one heliport opens the door to others who want their private helicopters to land closer to their homes.

“The close-knit community of committed conservationists and equestrians are extremely disappointed that their pleas have been disregarded,” according to Schaub.


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Charlyne Schaub
Schaub Communications
561 302-4129
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