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Latest News in Mendham Township, NJ

Community Garden Is Helping Feed Mendham, Chester People In Need

MENDHAM, NJ — As the region's temperatures drop, more and more people will find it more difficult to access fresh fruits and vegetables. But in Mendham, just one neighborhood organization is making all the difference.The "The Sharing Project" is a nonprofit organization that was started by two siblings, Matthew and Emily Borinshteyn, as a way to make a difference in the community.The project garden, which is located on Mt Pleasant Road in Mendham, has grown exponentially since its inception in 2021. According to...

MENDHAM, NJ — As the region's temperatures drop, more and more people will find it more difficult to access fresh fruits and vegetables. But in Mendham, just one neighborhood organization is making all the difference.

The "The Sharing Project" is a nonprofit organization that was started by two siblings, Matthew and Emily Borinshteyn, as a way to make a difference in the community.

The project garden, which is located on Mt Pleasant Road in Mendham, has grown exponentially since its inception in 2021. According to Sharing Project officials, the group started with four garden beds and by the end of the 2021 gardening season, they were able to build five additional garden beds with the help of members of the Rotary Club of Mendham.

"Our amazing helpers from Girl Scout troop 97321 joined our HS volunteers in last November and planted garlic, which grew beautifully in the spring. In addition to the tomatoes and kale growing in 9 garden beds, students planted a variety of pumpkins along the fence and later, with the help of our youngest volunteers – members of the Young Gardener Club – we planted 20 more tomato plants directly into the ground. All of them grew beautifully and we harvested many red round tomatoes that were donated to CHMP starting from August 18th," the group shared on Facebook.

The organization was able to donate more than 1,800 pounds of fresh produce to the Chester and Mendham Food Pantry in 2022 alone, exceeding the amount of food donated at this time last year.

The Chester and Mendham Food Pantry, located at 100 North Road in Chester, serves the communities of Mendham and Chester. In 2003, the pantry purchased its current location, which is next to the Chester First Aid Squad building.

The food pantry serves over 20 families through deliveries and 35 walk-in families on a monthly basis, officials said.

The following is a list of some of the most needed items:

"We appreciate all donations of non-perishable food items as well as hygiene products, health and beauty aids and paper products. We cannot accept items that are opened or that are past their expiration dates," said the food pantry.

For more information about The Sharing Project, visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/The-Sharing-Project-100773538293471 and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thesharingproject/.

Morris County & Mendham Township Dedicate Historic Park at Pitney Farm

Unique Trail and Gardens Part of Seven-Acre Park at Former Family EstateThe Morris County Board of County Commissioners today joined Mendham Township officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a crowd of residents active in preservation to open the Historic Park at Pitney Farm off Cold Hill Road in the township.“This is really an environmental miracle,” said former Mayor Diana Orban Brown, noting the park was planted with more than 100 native tree species, native ...

Unique Trail and Gardens Part of Seven-Acre Park at Former Family Estate

The Morris County Board of County Commissioners today joined Mendham Township officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a crowd of residents active in preservation to open the Historic Park at Pitney Farm off Cold Hill Road in the township.

“This is really an environmental miracle,” said former Mayor Diana Orban Brown, noting the park was planted with more than 100 native tree species, native grasses and built with materials that will absorb rainwater, including the special macadam parking lot.

Mendham Township spearheaded the project with the assistance of two key grants, including $377,500 in state Green Acres funding recommended in 2019 to build the park and $264,753 in Morris County Trail Grant funding provided by the County Commissioners in 2019.

The park was opened with a ribbon cutting that included State Sen. Anthony Bucco, Mayor Sarah Neibart, Morris County Commissioner Director Stephen H. Shaw, Commissioner John Krickus, Deputy Mayor Nick Monaghan, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, township Committee Member Amalia Duarte, township Historic Preservation Committee Chair Vanessa Brown and Kelly Christopher from the DEP Green Acres Program.

Also attending were parks and recreations officials, public works employees, and volunteers who were crucial over the years in efforts to preserve Pitney Farm and the parkland.

“I think it’s the first handicap accessible trail we have constructed in Morris County,” said Shaw, referring to a half-mile trail accessible to people with disabilities that was included in the project.

“What we found during the pandemic is we needed the trails. Our trail use increased fourfold during the pandemic. It was a place where people could get out when they weren’t allowed to really move about that much, and to get some fresh air. It was such a needed respite from what was going on during the depths of the pandemic. So that’s how important these types of projects are,” Shaw said.

The park is located on the former estate of the Pitney Family, who settled the site in the early 1700s. The township initially purchased 12 acres at the location, which included the three-story family home. However, attempts to preserve the home ended with an arson-fire in 2016, which destroyed the structure and prompted the township to sell off about five acres on which it stood.

Signage with historical information is now on site, along with grassy areas for passive recreation, picnicking and general outdoor enjoyment. Additionally, a historic garden, surrounded by a brick enclosure has been restored.

Senator Bucco noted the garden as he marveled that the entire project was completed in a few short months after an April 26 groundbreaking.

“It seems like we were just here with shovels, and in a short period of time you see what the collaboration of the state, county and local government can produce. It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Bucco added.

“It’s representative of government at its finest, producing services for the public good,” said Deputy Mayor Monaghan, hailing the cooperation of local, county and state agencies in bringing the project to fruition.

Photos:

Top right: Cutting the ribbon at the Historic Park at Pitney Farm (l-r) were Sen. Bucco, former Mayor Diana Orban Brown, Historic Preservation Chair Vanessa Brown, Mayor Neibart, Deputy Mayor Monaghan, Committee Member Duarte, Commissioner Director Shaw, Assemblywoman Dunn and Commissioner Krickus.

Center Left: Director Shaw and Senator Bucco walked the grounds of the restored garden at Pitney Farm.

Mendham Twp. zoning board: Breweries covered under local right to farm law

MENDHAM TWP. - Backer Farm owners essentially scored a legal victory on Tuesday, Feb. 22, when, following an exhaustive four and one-half hour meeting that often involved deep dives into legal technicalities, Board of Adjustment members determined that farm-based breweries in general were a permitted use so long as at least 51 percent of the ingredients were grown and used on the premises.But the final agreement came in a 5-2 split vote, meaning consensus was not unanimous. Board Chairman Arjan Roghanchi and board mem...

MENDHAM TWP. - Backer Farm owners essentially scored a legal victory on Tuesday, Feb. 22, when, following an exhaustive four and one-half hour meeting that often involved deep dives into legal technicalities, Board of Adjustment members determined that farm-based breweries in general were a permitted use so long as at least 51 percent of the ingredients were grown and used on the premises.

But the final agreement came in a 5-2 split vote, meaning consensus was not unanimous. Board Chairman Arjan Roghanchi and board members Nicholas Lordi, Juan Peruyero, Nick Witczak and Aido Zairi agreed the use was in compliance, while board members Richard Cadmus and Gary Kapner did not, with Cadmus calling the interpretation "a slippery slope" that could encourage farms to engage in larger operations, like biomass and cannabis.

The decision was an interpretation of local law that applied to all farms in the township and was not a hearing on the Backer Farm application. All the same, the decision was welcomed by farm owner Fred Backer.

"Agriculture is a constantly changing industry," Backer said in a statement released following the hearing. "We continue to evolve as the market for our products and services changes over time. Our planned farm-based brewery is just another way we are meeting the demands and addressing the current market trends in agriculture.”

According to Backer Farm consultant Frank Pinto, former chair of the Morris County Agricultural Development Board, next steps will be a public hearing held by that county board on the farm's Site Specific Agricultural Management Practice application. That will be scheduled after all property owners within a 200-foot radius of the Backer property are notified, and at least 10 days prior to a public hearing, he said.

Pinto said the county hearing "will be the first opportunity for Backer Farm to present its proposal and provide expert testimony."

After that hearing, the county board will issue a resolution on its decision. If a resolution of approval, then the farm will seek federal and state approval of a limited brewery license "and begin renovation of the dairy barn to make the brewery a reality," he said.

The hearing was brought before the board by attorney Susan Rubright on behalf of North Gate Road residents Bernadette and George Koenig and Kimberly Hines Hart and Eric Hart, residents who oppose the Backer application and who wanted the board to determine the application did not comply with the township's Right to Farm and other ordinances.

In her statement issued Friday after the meeting, Rubright said they filed the request "asking a simple question - whether a brewery with a two-story, 78-seat tasting room in Mendham Township is a permitted agricultural use under the zoning ordinance in a residential zone. They did so because Backer Farm plans that were initially filed at the Planning Board last summer and now filed at the Morris County Agricultural Development Board (MCADB) call for a large scale destination farm venue with 70 parking spaces, overflow parking and late hours that are open well beyond nearby Burnt Mills Cider or Screamin' Hill - the only other farm brewery in New Jersey.

"We wanted to make sure that the health, safety and welfare of the residents and visitors to Mendham that the municipal ordinances were implemented to protect, were taken into consideration. This is not just a phrase; it translates into safety on the roads, adequate septic, protection of the wetlands, noise control, and other considerations of the area," Rubright said.

Rubright said now, "we welcome the public hearing that the MCADB will hold as we expect that just like the July 1st Planning Board hearing that had over 100 participants on the call, many concerned residents will attend and continue to voice the safety, health and environmental concerns about the large-scale operation of their proposed brewery. We have faith that the MCADB will take into consideration whether the proposed operations pose a direct threat to public health and safety - the last condition that must be met for Right to Farm protection."

Before presenting planner Peter Steck as an expert witness that night, she said the request for interpretation "is not anti-farm, is not anti-Backer and, in fact, it's not anti-brewery, per se.

"As residents and taxpayers, my clients and many other residents in the municipality want to make sure that the zoning that is in place, and that others in the township have abided by, or applied for, that the appropriate relief is protected and equally applied," she said.

"We want to make sure that the integrity and transparency of the process is maintained," she said.

"We want to make sure that the health, safety and welfare of the residents and visitors to Mendham Township that the ordinances, and especially the zoning ordinance, are implemented to protect, are taken into consideration.

Ironia Road resident Peter Banos said allowing the brewery "will change the depth and breadth of our neighborhood to have a 78-seat brewery with another 25 people standing and drinking, with another 50 to 100 people in the field, it's just unfathomable. I can't imagine this board thinking that that's a customary use. That's an inappropriate use."

He said the Backer proposal was solely "for the financial benefit of the Backers and their alleged investors. It's just so inappropriate for Mendham.

"You don't have the public support for this," he said. "We hope you'll take our position and support us and decline to agree that it's not a permitted us."

Cross Way resident Terrill Doyle suggested that allowing breweries in general would mean everyone could have a brewery if they so desired, in a township unique for allowing agricultural uses "in virtually everybody's yard." Farms are allowed in the township's residential zone.

"I have 13 chickens in my backyard so I'm thankful for that," she said.

"But," she said, "I do not want my next door neighbor having a concert because that's an ancillary use on their agricultural property because they happen to sell firewood.

"I don't want the other neighbor to have people coming over and drinking in their backyard or smoking marijuana because they're growing that in their backyard and having people come and pay to do that in their yard," she said.

Mountainside Road resident Melissa Rainas took the board to task for allowing Backer attorney Nicole Voigt to question Steck, the planner who testified as expert witness for the Koenigs and Harts, as the issue "was not about Backer Farm."

She also accused Board Attorney Anthony Sposaro of being "clearly biased and on the side of the farm."

Complaints

Located at 32 Ironia Road, Backer Farm last year filed its brewery application with the township Planning Board. The hearing was heard on July 1, but then had to be rescheduled after a technical glitch wiped out the virtual meeting. The hearing and a subsequent Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing, however, were postponed when the application went before the county.

Meanwhile, a Sept. 11 concert held by Backer owners drew numerous noise complaints from neighbors opposing the plan. Opponents also cited concerns that the tasting room will encourage drunk driving and ruin the bucolic atmosphere not only of the township, but of Mendham Borough, in which the farm partially sits.

During the Dec. 9 Morris County Agriculture Development Board meeting, opponents continued to raise those concerns.

However, Backer Farm owners continued to say the operation, if approved, will observe state noise regulations and comply with state Agricultural Development Committee.

On Feb. 3, the county agriculture board approved the “Application Checklist” for the Backer project. The list lays out all of the particulars that need to be addressed by the applicant to fulfill their obligations under the Right to Farm Act including stormwater management, wetlands management, consideration of county and local ordinances, and farm site standards.

Those for, against proposed woodlands restoration sound off at Mendham Township meeting

MENDHAM TWP. – The proposal by a local businessman to partner with the township and reforest about 100 acres of public property was the focus of a four-hour special meeting that brought out project foes and supporters alike on Tuesday, Aug. 30.Bruce Flitcroft, owner of Mendham Mushroom on Tingley Road, sought township approval so he could meet the Sept. 22 deadline to file for a federal grant. If provided, the project would, over a 12-year period, see the removal of invasive trees and plants on Buck Hill, locate...

MENDHAM TWP. – The proposal by a local businessman to partner with the township and reforest about 100 acres of public property was the focus of a four-hour special meeting that brought out project foes and supporters alike on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Bruce Flitcroft, owner of Mendham Mushroom on Tingley Road, sought township approval so he could meet the Sept. 22 deadline to file for a federal grant. If provided, the project would, over a 12-year period, see the removal of invasive trees and plants on Buck Hill, located on Tempe Wick Road near Corey Lane, and property near Leddel Road.

Flitcroft said he wants to restore the woods to how they were before clear cutting ravaged them by the late 19th century, in essence – robust woodlands whose native trees and canopy produced a bounty of nuts as food sources while absorbing carbon emissions.

Should the project be successful, then, he said, a profit-sharing program four to ten years out could be implemented “to fund other ecological initiatives.”

Whether Township Committee members agree or not to participate – or delay a decision – will be decided at their regular meeting set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12.

Although, said Mayor Nick Monaghan at the Aug. 30 meeting, “I think it’s a very intriguing idea.”

“We believe there are opportunities out there to expand food sources.” If eventually, there were profits, then those would be returned to the township, he said.

Flitcroft is applying for a grant from the National Resources Conservation Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But he needs to partner with the township and get approval by the Sept. 22 deadline for this year’s funding round.

‘Huge Scale’

The Aug. 30 meeting drew some 75 attendees, split between attending in person at town hall and via Zoom.

Concerns raised about the project ranged from fears that Flitcroft is seeking commercial benefits to the possibility that foreign parasites would be introduced and harm the community.

Leading the opposition that night was Environmental Commission Chair Martin Slayne, who said the matter had been discussed among all nine members of the commission, who collectively agreed that the township needed a conservation strategy but that they had “very strong reservations” about the proposal.

“We don’t see structure,” he said. “This is a huge scale project.”

According to Slayne, Flitcroft’s proposal “is aiming at commercial scale” mushroom processing.

“It’s just beyond belief that you would be considering this venture. I’m just appalled,” said Environmental Commission member Diane Dinklage. “It shouldn’t even be up for discussion.”

Another Environmental Commission member, Mary Calaboro, suggested the township hire an independent environmental consultant to consider the issue.

Flitcroft, however, is partnering with an executive board that, among others, consist of naturalist and fungi expert Dorothy Smullen of New Jersey Audubon.

“A couple hundred dollars may be well worth it,” she said.

Others in attendance simply wanted the decision put off for a year to germinate a prudent decision.

Ironia Road resident Diana Orban Brown, a former mayor and Open Space Committee chair, called it “an interesting proposition” but advised “let’s slow it down,” meaning the process, to better investigate what deed restrictions on the properties involve.

It was a suggestion echoed by North Gate Road resident George Koenig, who suggested the township take a year to consider, although he called the proposal “exciting and possibly great.”

“There’s no reason to rush this,” said Corey Lane resident Frank Zammataro.

Others opposed the plan for other reasons.

During his presentation, Flitcroft said part of the project would be to reintroduce the ingredients that once constituted the original soil into the ground, so the interaction between trees and soil would be its healthiest.

Jack Curtis of Michael Road, however, said the “mushroom resort,” as he called it, “will release new spores,” although he also called the presentation “monosyllabic baloney.”

It was something Flitcroft denied, saying no parasitic fungi would be introduced. “We’re not bringing any parasite from Russia or China,” he said.

Corey Lane resident James Zemaitis, vice chair of the township’s Historical Preservation Committee, said more information was needed and that it was “imperative” nothing be touched unless the committee can weigh in.

“We are alarmed by the lack of clarity” of the plans, he added.

“He’s not looking to destroy the woods,” said Mendham Road resident George Pompignan.

“It’s a cool project,” said Rob Meyer of East Ridge Road, adding the project was one of “restoration and then preservation.”

“We have to look at the bigger picture here,” Daggett said, adding the project was “not for us,” but for future generations.

Orlins and Baio Announce Candidacies for Mendham Township Committee Seats

New Leadership For Mendham Township Committee SeatsJordan Orlins and Tom Baio Want Lower Taxes, Lower Debt and the Same Idyllic Mendham for Future GenerationsMENDHAM TOWNSHIP – Jordan Orlins (52) and Tom Baio (54), long time Mendham residents and experienced businessmen, are running for two seats on the Mendham Township Committee.“Mendham has always been Mayberry to me,” said Orlins referring to The Andy Griffith Show reruns popular in his youth. “My wife, Gina, and I joined the M...

New Leadership For Mendham Township Committee Seats

Jordan Orlins and Tom Baio Want Lower Taxes, Lower Debt and the Same Idyllic Mendham for Future Generations

MENDHAM TOWNSHIP – Jordan Orlins (52) and Tom Baio (54), long time Mendham residents and experienced businessmen, are running for two seats on the Mendham Township Committee.

“Mendham has always been Mayberry to me,” said Orlins referring to The Andy Griffith Show reruns popular in his youth. “My wife, Gina, and I joined the Mendham Golf and Tennis Club in 2002 while we still lived in New York City. We loved visiting our family here and knew we would move to Mendham one day, it was that idyllic.” That day came in 2007 when the Harvard educated fund manager moved his family from the upper east side of Manhattan to the bucolic Oak Knoll neighborhood on the west side of Mendham. Orlins now serves as President of the forty-five year old Oak Knoll Property Owners Association (OKPOA) while also serving Mendham Township on the Finance Committee. Orlins initiated a multi-year beautification program in Oak Knoll which is paying dividends. “Oak Knoll is a microcosm of the rest of Mendham, our property values are challenged. Here in Oak Knoll we did something about it by mobilizing a POA created principally for social endeavors and putting it to work improving our marketing and our grounds.” The program is paying dividends including street repaving, new entrance gardens and new signage, an Oak Knoll website and an Oak Knoll brochure featured at open houses.

Orlins intends to bring the same can do leadership and creative thinking to Mendham Township. “Serving on the township Finance Committee has crystalized my belief that our residents need tax relief. The town made progress with the shared services initiative but there is much more we can do,” Orlins said. “For the last seven years I’ve coached youth sports with Mendham Borough moms and dads. We are the same people with the same tax concerns and everyone I talk to, in the township and in the borough, agrees it makes sense to cooperate more openly and share services. It will take focus and persistence but the potential for savings is enormous.” Orlins also sees potential for savings in automating certain township administrative processes.

Orlins has engineering degrees from Boston University and Georgia Tech and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He applied the engineering skillset in the US Air Force during the first Gulf War. He left the Air Force in 1994 as a decorated Captain to earn an MBA at Harvard. Orlins then went to Bain & Company, a preeminent management consulting firm, where he specialized in corporate mergers. He left Bain to join a NYC student financing start-up that eventually went public. Orlins went on to start the Minuteman Investment Fund LP in 2002 and has led that partnership, in NYC and Mendham, ever since.

All three Orlins children — Madison (15), Carly (13) and Max (11) — are in Mendham Township public schools where they are active in sports, band and the honor roll. The Orlins children are graduates of the Westmont Montessori in Mendham where Gina Orlins served as treasurer and Board Chair for many years. Orlins’ in-laws, Robert “Bob” and Joan Scialla, have been in Mendham for thirty-three years. Bob founded Scialla and Associates Architects here in Mendham. He is also an officer at the Mendham Golf and Tennis Club and Bob and Joan served the Brookside Community Church for many years where Scialla Hall is named in their honor.

Tom Baio is a licensed New Jersey Architect. He is a graduate of NYIT (B-Arch 1987) and has obtained certificates in Architecture from The University of Venice (1985) and Harvard GSD (2001). Baio is the founder and principal architect of Thomas Baio Architect PC since 1991. Baio has designed or been involved with nearly 3,000 structures throughout neighboring towns over the last twenty seven years. His work has contributed broadly to the communities he has served and it has influenced the upward trajectory of property values in those same communities.

Baio has testified before numerous planning and zoning boards. His testimony before various township committees has promoted changes in Building Ordinances and Master Plan re-writes for communities such as Livingston, Westfield, Metuchen and Millburn Township among others.

Baio and his wife, Monica, have lived in Mendham Township since 2008. They raised three children in Mendham where they excelled in school and sports. Their youngest Ian (19) is enrolled at The University of Arizona, their middle daughter Ariana (22) is a journalist and graduate of High Point University (May 2019). Their oldest daughter Emily, who was born with cerebral palsy, passed away suddenly in 2012.

Baio is a former resident of Short Hills New Jersey. “I witnessed firsthand how fiscal conservatism in municipal governance benefited the residents of Millburn and Short Hills with rising property values and a AAA bond rating,” Baio says. Baio supports policies which bring together and engage business development, historic preservation and civic pride. “I feel strongly that Mendham can be better and I will utilize my creative and professional skill sets to help make that happen while I serve on the Mendham Township Committee.“

Want to learn more? Visit Orlins and Baio at www.orlinsandbaioformendham.com.

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