TRENTON - Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak to permit a South Jersey farm to host youth soccer tournaments, as well as games and practices, was approved last week by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
The bill was in response to a 2014 Pinelands Commission decision that found holding soccer tournaments on the grounds of Tuckahoe Turf Farms, a sod farm in Hammonton Township, violated a deed restriction limiting its recreational use to “low recreation” activities, described as hiking, hunting, canoeing, horseback riding and bicycling, among others, according to reports. The issue has not yet been fully resolved.
“The decision by the Pinelands Commission to prohibit tournaments on the turf farm was puzzling to a lot of people,” said Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic) in a news release. “The games that took place on the grounds of the farm in no way damaged the land. These were kids playing soccer on a field, where grass was grown specifically for turf.”
The senator said the commission’s flawed decision was nothing more than “bureaucracy getting in the way of common sense.” The bill will allow these games to continue. It will clarify that soccer is a permissible activity, and it “will give children in the area the ability to participate in a sporting activity that they love well into the future.”
The legislation (S-2125/A-3257) would establish that any final determination by a county agriculture development board or the State Agriculture Development Committee — as applicable under the “Right to Farm Act” as to what qualifies as a farm-based recreational activity in the Pinelands protection area — shall be binding upon the Pinelands Commission and shall constitute a permitted agriculture of horticultural use in the protection area.
In addition, the bill specifies that field sports, provided that no permanent athletic fields are established, are a “farm-based recreational activity.”
“We have to make sure regulatory bodies are not overreaching when it comes to determining the proper use for land within their jurisdiction,” said Andrzejczak in a news release. “The decision to ban soccer, which clearly is a low-impact activity, on this farm was just wrong. This bill will remove any uncertainty about whether this sport is permitted as a farm-based recreational activity. This is really about bringing some clarity to an issue that has really caused a lot of uncertainty in the community, and allowing these games to go on.”
The Pinelands Commission notified the owner of Tuckahoe Turf Farms last year that the tournaments violated a deed restriction limiting its recreational use to “low recreation” activities.
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.