At the July 14, 2020 meeting of the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders (SCBCF), letters written by Sophia Chadda and Jon Sandler, were read into the official record and ignited concerns that Freeholders were not notified of, or involved in, the Somerset County Park Commission’s decision to close Lord Stirling Stable (LSS) and sell all horses and equipment. Lord Stirling Stable, occupying 429 acres on South Avenue in Basking Ridge, was purchased by Somerset County in 1969 and has offered county residents many educational, sporting, scouting, and social activities for decades. Bernards Township residents enjoyed a special connection with the LSS since Bernards Township served as its home.
Chadda and Sandler, in their letters to the SCBCF, expressed concern the stable was closed without notice to county residents, and that the decision was made without public debate or transparency. “Lord Stirling Stable has been an amazing resource for county residents and, being located in Bernards Township, is especially treasured by Bernards Township residents. We are surprised at the sudden closure, the lack of transparency, and the lack of apparent action or concern by the Bernards Township Committee,” said Chadda and Sandler. “When asked, Township Committee Member Janice Fields indicated it was a county issue and there was nothing the Bernards Township Committee could do. While Ms. Fields offered to approach the county to raise the issue directly, as far as we can tell, she has failed to do so. Well, leadership matters and the concerns of Bernards Township residents matter to us so we got involved. We’re getting action and we’re continuing to pursue the issue until we receive appropriate resolution and full transparency.”
Freeholder Melonie Marano and Deputy Director Sara Sooy agreed with Chadda and Sandler’s concerns and also expressed deep trepidation they learned of the stable’s closure from the public and not from the Parks Commission. Geoffrey Soriano, Park Commission Secretary-Director, said the decision was made on May 15th by a subcommittee of the Park Commission due to operating losses over the past several years and, more recently, because of declining revenue due to COVID-19. He mentioned his commission has all records related to the decision and will respond to a public records request from a resident who asked for those documents. Soriano also said the property will not be sold to developers and that it is the commission’s hope LSS will be privatized. Sooy, the freeholder liaison to the Park Commission commented that the full committee should be involved in the decision making and that she, and the SCBCF should have also been notified. Marano made a motion for an outside investigation to be conducted. The motion was seconded by Sooy and agreed to by all freeholders present.
“Although we’re disappointed at the Park Commission’s sudden decision, swift action to dispose of the horses and assets, lack of community involvement, and lack of transparency, we’re glad the SCBCF is taking this issue seriously, we look forward to the investigation, and have full confidence in the SCBCF under the leadership of Director Shanel Robinson,” Chadda and Sandler added.
View the SCBCF meeting (Lord Stirling was discussed at 1hour, 3 minutes in.)
Read Jon Sandler’s Letter to SCBCF
From: Jonathan Sandler
Date: July 12, 2020 at 10:58:24 AM EDT
Subject: Concerns About Lord Stirling Stables
16 Vail Terrace
First and foremost, I hope you and your families are all safe and staying healthy. Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times.
I am writing with respect to the unfortunate and sudden decision to close the Lord Stirling Stables. While the Stables are run by the County, our residents share a special connection to them because they are located within Bernards Township. Many of my friends and neighbors are devastated as a result of the closing of the Stables and the sale of the horses that were owned by the County. Indeed, a resident of Bernards Township created a petition that got more than 4,000 signatures asking that the Stables be saved. What is particularly puzzling to me is that the stables were closed and the horses were sold with what appeared to be little to no advanced notice to the residents of Bernards Township or Somerset County. I would hope that, as the governing body of Somerset County, you all were fully aware of the processes and procedures that were put in place before the Stables were closed and the horses sold. As residents of Somerset County, I think that we are all entitled to know the basis for the decision to close, the method used to sell the horses along with an accounting of the monies received for the horses, which were County property.
That said, hopefully given the outcry in support of the Stables, the Freeholders and the County Parks Department will do everything in their power to ensure that the Stables are reopened again in some capacity.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Read Sophia Chadda’s Letter to SCBCF
As a 21 year resident of Bernards Township,I am writing you this letter to ask you to consider re-opening Lord Stirling Stables. As one of best places in Bernards township and Somerset County, Lord Stirling Stables has provided a great service to the residents of this township and county for the past 50 years. You may be aware that a recent petition circulating has garnered more than 4000 signatures. The reason being that the Lord Stirling Stables provides many tangible and intangible benefits and services to our area. They include the ability to ride at a reasonable price point, providing an area with which to hold parties and fundraisers, offering therapeutic riding as well as providing the mental and physical benefits of horseback riding. I write to you as a concerned citizen with many questions; namely, why was the decision made to close the stables without public knowledge or input, when was this decision made, who was involved in this decision making process, and is there accounting available for the sale of the horses? These are salient questions that need to be addressed. Many residents are very upset about this closure and I hope that you will be able to discuss this situation and provide answers to your constituents with the ultimate goal of re-opening the stables. With warmest personal regards, Very truly yours, Dr. Sophia Chadda
Sent from my iPhone
Sophia Chadda,DDSDiplomate of the AAP41 Stonehouse RdBasking Ridge, NJ 07920www.drsophiachadda.com
Well said, Jon. Thanks for showing leadership on this thorny issue…quite shocking really that the closure of LSS was handled in such a secretive fashion. Wonder why the township committee didn’t inform their constituents?
Thank you Valerie. We will continue to push for full transparency on this issue since it is important to so many Bernards Township residents.
If it was losing money I back closing it. We have bigger issues and economic worries as a township than a luxury of LSS.
Thanks so much for your comment. The issue is not that the stable was closed, but that it was abruptly closed without transparency, and without public notification or discussion. Even the freeholders, including the freeholder liaison to the Park Commission, were not aware of the closure until the public informed them. We deserve full transparency. Perhaps through discussion and transparency, a feasible solution to keep the stable open could’ve been found. I’m confident the investigation Jon and I sparked will answer many questions. Our community deserves transparent leadership at all levels.