PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF APRIL 7, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Clancy asked if paragraph three, page one, reads correctly regarding “assurance by this Board….that Eagle Road would not be an entrance”. All agreed that this is the statement that Mr. McCrane had made.
Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of Aril 7, 2004. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, April 7, 2004 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Michael Clancy, John Davis, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Richard Weaver, Township Supervisor; Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director; Russell G. Strover, Naturalist; and Allen Fidler, Planning Commission Liaison.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM.
Mr. Jim McCrane, a resident of St. Andrews Briar, said that he wanted to discuss the planning of an active recreation park on the Woll Tract. He said that when the plans were first discussed by the Park and Recreation Board, it had been his impression that the ten acres of property to be donated to the Township by Elliot Builders, which runs from Eagle Road, behind St. Andrew’s Briar to the Woll Tract, would be used for either passive recreation or emergency access only. He said that he had been given assurance by this Board and the Board of Supervisors, that Eagle Road would not be an entrance to the park. Since those early discussions, as plans have progressed, there has been discussion of using Eagle Road as the main entrance. He noted that recent Park and Recreation minutes show that Eagle Road is being considered as a possible entrance and that the various deeds and agreements are being examined to determine if this would be permissible. He said that he and his neighbors are very concerned and feel that they had been misled at earlier meetings.
Mr. Levine said that he was aware that there had been a series of e-mails among various neighbors of the Woll tract and Township employees and officials. He said that he has asked that the solicitor render an opinion of the documents referring to the transfer of this property, and he would like the Board of Supervisors to give this Board some direction in considering Eagle Road as an entrance. He suggested that discussion of this be placed on a Board of Supervisors work session agenda.
Mr. Weaver said that it had been his recollection that the property was to have been for emergency access only. He said that he had been part of the committee working on the comprehensive master plan a few years ago.
Mr. McCrane presented the Board with copies of the sales brochure for St. Andrews Briar, which states that the properties are, “Surrounded by preserved open space that will never be developed”, in the text, and on the accompanying map of the development.
Mr. Marty Sommer, a resident, stated that he owns the farmhouse that faces the 10-acre parcel being considered for access to the Woll Tract. He said that he has been assured by the Township that this property is to remain as open space and grassland.
Mr. Levine again stated that direction on this matter must come from the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Tom Jirele, Township Supervisor, said that he had spoken to Supervisor Goodnoe about this matter. Both he and Mr. Goodnoe were Board members at the time that Elliott was negotiating deeding this property, and both recall that the property was to have been for emergency access only.
Mr. Wert said that at this time, Pickering Corts and Sommerson are just beginning to gather information on the property and are not ready for public meetings about the Woll Tract yet.
Mrs. Ethel Hibbs, a resident, said that her grandson, David Hibbs, had cleared a trail at the Clark Nature Center as an Eagle Scout project, and her grandson, Steven Hibbs, would be clearing another trail this coming Saturday for his Eagle Scout project. Mrs. Hibbs said that at the time of the purchase of the Clark property in 1997, the property was referred to as “Clark Nature Preserve”. She said that this pristine and beautiful property should remain as such, and that she would like to see the name changed back to “Clark Nature Preserve”. She said that she feels that the word “preserve” better indicates the unspoiled aspect of the property. She said that at the time of purchase it had been the intention of the Clarks and the Township to preserve this property as open space. She said that she is concerned that the name has been changed to “nature center” by people who would like to use and develop the property, rather than preserve it as open space.
Mr. Weaver said that he believed that Mr. Wert had researched the use of the word “preserve” in naming the property, and had discovered that using the word “preserve” could restrict human access to the property. He said that while it is the Township’s intention to preserve the property, they do want it accessible to residents by trail systems.
Mrs. Hibbs said that she had discussed this with Ken Baird, the man who had worked on the grant from DCNR to purchase the property. Mr. Baird said that the portion of the property purchased with the DCNR grant was deed restricted, but the area purchased with Township funds, is not deed restricted. She said that this area, which contains the house and barn, can be used for trails.
Mr. Wert said that the DCNR grant was not used for purchase of the house and barn. He said that his research indicates that the deed restricted area can have trails, but that a “preserve” is to remain untouched.
Mr. Levine said that the Board would research this further to see whether the use of the word “preserve” would limit access to the Clark property, and would discuss it at the June meeting.
Approval of Minutes
Mrs. Kelly moved to accept the minutes of March 3, 2004. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Preliminary Plan – Stroupe Property – 301 N. Sycamore Street
Mr. Ed Murphy, equitable owner of the property at 301 N. Sycamore Street, presented his preliminary plan for development. He said that the property is located behind the Yardville Bank/Il Sol parking lot, along the Newtown Creek. He intends to move the McLaughlin barn to the property and renovate it for use as his law office. He said that there had been a barn at this location in 1880. His proposed barn will provide a 3500 square foot office.
Mr. Jirele asked if the Township owned the land on the opposite side of the creek, and if the bridge across the creek is on his property.
Mr. Murphy said that this property is not opposite the Township owned property. He said that the bridge is not on his property. He said that he does not know who owns the bridge.
Mr. Levine moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they accept a fee in lieu of open space for this property. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Sketch Plan – Verizon Expansion – 369 Washington Crossing Road
Mr. Adam Benosky of Bohler Engineering, presented a sketch plan for an addition to the Verizon building on Washington Crossing Road. Mr. Benosky said that the 3600 square foot addition is a switching center, and will hold equipment for bringing fiber to Newtown. He said that there would also be a small parking area added to the four-acre parcel to provide access to the addition.
Mr. Wert noted that although this property is along Newtown Creek, opposite the 8 acres owned by Newtown Township, the Verizon property is not accessible to the public.
Mr. Jirele said that he thought that the Township had at one time wanted to acquire property along the creek.
Mr. Wert noted that the size of open space required to be donated is based on the size of the addition being proposed and in this case would be very small.
Mrs. Kelly moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they accept a fee in lieu of open space for this property. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Park Development Committee Report
Mr. Levine reported that it has been discovered that the area surrounding the Sloan Alternative School, where the Park and Recreation Board had planned to extend the Roberts Ridge parking lot, belongs to Council Rock School District. He said that during the time that the Township and School District were negotiating the trade of the Sloan Alternative School property for the tract opposite Newtown Elementary School, the Township had deeded two acres surrounding the school to the District. He said that there had been a change in Township Engineers at the time that this took place, and it was an oversight that it appears as part of Roberts Ridge Park property.
Mr. Wert said that he has been speaking to Mr. Tom Ames of the School District about this. He said that Mr. Ames has indicated that the district is investigating possibly expanding the alternative school, but no decisions have been made yet. An expansion of the school could require additional parking.
Mr. Fidler suggested extending the Roberts Ridge parking lot eastward along Frost Lane. He said that this would bring the handicapped parking closer to the playground and would not involve a grade change.
Mr. Wert expressed concern that locating the parking along Frost Lane would involve removal of recently planted trees, which have been financed by grant money.
Mr. Jirele suggested that building additional parking could be a benefit to the district if they intend to expand the school.
Mr. Levine suggested that Mr. Ames be invited to discuss this as well as the development of the Woll Tract, which abuts school district property. He suggested that the Board continue to plan the playground now, rather than wait until the parking lot issues are resolved.
Mr. Clancy suggested waiting until the parking issues are resolved before proceeding with playground plans. He said that the handicapped specific equipment should be placed closest to the handicapped reserved parking spaces. He said that he would like to suggest that this Board recommend to the Board of Supervisors that no additional parking be added, as people continue to find adequate parking in the existing lot and along Lower Dolington Road.
Mr. Levine said that this Board has never recommended additional parking, but has only suggested location for the additional parking that the Board of Supervisors has voted to build. He said that the location originally chosen for the handicapped specific play equipment is the only possible location that would not involve a grade change. He said that it would be easier for handicapped children to traverse a flat area.
Mr. Wert said that he has spoken to the sales representatives of the equipment. He said that they had recommended a system of trails made of tiles be placed around all of the equipment, making the entire play area wheelchair accessible. He said that it would not be possible to retrofit the existing structure with ramps because there is not enough room to allow for fall zones. He said that there are some swings available that are wheelchair accessible, as well as other equipment specifically designed for access to wheelchairs. He suggested meeting with the representatives at the June meeting, and including Mrs. Tammy Sutton, and any other interested residents in the selection of equipment.
Mr. Jirele asked if there would be an extension of the trail to the corner of Frost Lane and Lower Dolington Road.
Mr. Wert said that the trail would not be extended in that direction because that corner does not warrant a stop sign and crosswalk. He said that he has been speaking to the school district about continuing the trail across district property toward St. Andrews Drive. They are also in discussion and awaiting district approval for the continuation of the trail at Newtown Middle School, toward Mill Pond Road.
Board of Supervisors
Mr. Weaver said that the consultants working on plans for the Woll Tract would also give input on access to the property through the school district property, and that there are no plans to “sneak in “ an entrance through Eagle Road.
Mr. Fidler said that the Planning Commission had expressed interest in investigating access to the Woll Tract at Eagle Road, because access through Rte 413 would be very expensive and there was concern about commingling school traffic with park traffic if access was gained through Wrights Road. He said that the Planning Commission had suggested looking at all three access points to determine which would be best.
Mr. Levine said that at this time the Elliott property had not yet been dedicated, and could be withdrawn if the dispute with the neighbors is not resolved.
Mr. Davis commented that the planners would review all of the advantages and disadvantages to each access point, and that residents would be given opportunity for input into the plan before any decision is made.
Planning Commission Report
Mr. Fidler reported that the Planning Commission has been reviewing Ordinance changes recommended by the Economic Development Committee, as well as other changes presented by the Jointure. He said that there were some difficult issues to resolve regarding riparian buffers recommended by Upper Makefield that would adversely affect the properties on Sycamore Street along Newtown Creek.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that there was a 125% increase in revenues and a 15% increase in participation in department programs. He said that the revenue increase was due to the early registration to summer camp programs. He said that an extended day had been added to the camps, but there had not been a big response yet.
Mr. Wert said that a number of scout projects are being planned for trails at Clark Nature Center. Mr. Strover is attempting to organize a 4H program and a series of nature walks on the property. These will be part of the summer brochure.
Mr. Wert reported that Comcast is installing a driveway from their property along the by-pass to the Staples parking lot.
Mr. Wert said that Tri-State Engineers have flagged the parking area at Silver Lake Park, and Mr. Crossland of the Public Works Department has been researching whether this project could be done by his department, rather than contracted out.
Mr. Wert said that the fields at Helen Randle Park have been renovated and that work at Chandler Field would be complete in time for opening day of the Little League season on April 10.
Mr. Levine said that he would give his report to the Board of Supervisors at their April 28 meeting.
Mrs. Sutton reported that Arbor Day would be celebrated on April 23 at Pickering Field. She asked the Park and Recreation Board to continue to volunteer as they have in past years. She noted that Mr. Harp has donated another tree for Municipal Drive, and would also replace last year’s tree, which did not survive the winter. She thanked Mr. O’Neill for his help in acquiring a donation from the Newtown Little League for trees. This donation would be acknowledged on the posters advertising Arbor Day.
Mr. Levine said that he had learned that Mr. Jim Worthington had purchased the Dunmore property, but had not made any plans for it. He has considered such ideas as an additional pool or an ice rink.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 9:45PM. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary