PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF JULY 7, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of July 7, 2004. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. O’Neill abstaining.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, July 7, 2004 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice Chairman; Michael Clancy, John Davis, Kathy Kelly and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were: Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director; Russell G. Strover, Naturalist; and Richard Weaver, Township Supervisor.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Presentation on Woll Tract
Mr. Levine announced to the members of the public in attendance at the meeting that there would be a series of three public meetings to discuss the development of the Woll Tract as an active recreation park. He said that this first meeting would address access to the property.
Mr. Evan J. Stone, Director of Landscape Architecture for Pickering Corts and Summerson, presented some preliminary plans for access to the Woll Tract, with 37 acres planned for playing fields and parking, and the 10 acres donated by Elliott Builders to remain as passive recreation.
Mr. Stone explained that Eagle Road was not considered as a possible park entrance, however it would be used as an emergency entrance. He noted that there are two existing curb cuts along Eagle Road, and that there would not be any additional roadwork for this access. He pointed out that each of the four access plans that would be presented allowed for 100 foot setbacks around the entire park, and that the Township’s easement behind St. Andrew’s Briar appears on each plan.
Concept Plan 1
This plan shows one entrance at Rte 413, opposite the entrance to the Clark Nature Center. Mr. Stone noted that in considering this, or any plan for access to the park, access to Clark Nature Center must also be considered. With this plan, it is possible that a traffic light might be necessary. The parking is located close to the entrance. In this, and in all other plans, the lighted fields are placed close to the lower corner, nearest Rte 413. In each plan, a facilities building is located toward the center of the playing area.
Mr. Stone pointed out that the parking would be far from the existing schools, and would not alleviate parking problems that the schools experience during special events. He also noted that some of the playing fields would be far from parking spaces, and that the traffic light might not be deemed necessary by PennDot; and if approved, a traffic light could impede traffic flow.
Concept Plan 2
This plan shows access to the park through Wrights Road, between Newtown Elementary School and the existing Council Rock School District playing fields. Parking is located at the end of the access road, behind Newtown Elementary School. He noted that Council Rock School District has an agreement with the Township to have use of the fields for school use until 4:30 PM while school is in session.
Advantages to this plan include:
Disadvantages to this plan include:
Concept Plan 3
This plan provides access from both Rte 413 and Wrights Road, with an interior roadway running around the exterior perimeter of the playing fields, with smaller parking areas and head-in parking along the interior roadway.
Advantages to this plan are:
This plan would have the same disadvantages as plans one and two, and in addition, internal traffic could increase noise and light for adjacent neighbors.
Concept Plan 4
Plan 4 also shows two entrances, one at Rte 413 and one on Wrights Road, however the internal roadway only runs between the two entrances, along the perimeter with Rosebank Winery. Parking is clustered around the two entrances. The advantages and disadvantages are similar to those for Concept Plan 3, except that the interior road noise and light problems would be eliminated.
Mr. Stone said that before any decision can be made, there must be a decision made about whether to connect this park with the Clark Nature Center. He repeated that there would be 100-foot wide buffers around the property, and that all plans leave the 10 acres deeded to the Township by Elliott Builders as passive recreation. He said that pedestrian access to the park could be made easier or more difficult from the schools and from Eagle Road, and that this is another factor to be weighed in considering each plan. All plans have addressed storm water management.
Mr. Jerry McLaughlin, a resident, asked whether there would be internal lighting along the loop road in Plan 3.
Mr. Stone said that diffuse safety lighting would probably be considered for the parking areas along the loop road. He said that the roadbed could be recessed to eliminate headlight pollution to neighboring homes.
Mr. Jim McCrane, a resident, said that he had contacted manufacturers of lights for playing fields and parking lots, and had been directed to locations where such diffuse lights were in place, and he said that these lights are still visible in the night sky.
Mr. Levine reminded the residents in attendance that the subject for this evening’s discussion is access to the park only. He said that once an access plan has been chosen, field planning would begin, at which point lighted fields would be considered.
Mrs. Nancy Crescenzo, a resident, stated that the Township Master Plan calls for lighted fields on this site. She said that she would be opposed to an entrance at Rte 413, connecting this park with the Clark Nature Center, because the Nature Center is meant to remain as undisturbed as possible. She expressed concern about the danger of pedestrian crossing at Rte 413, even with a traffic light. Mrs. Crescenzo said that she favored a plan that had as little paved, impervious area as possible, but thought that parking should be as close to the playing fields as possible. She commented that although the plans call for internal trails to hook up to the Newtown Trail, that trail does not extend to Newtown Grant, thus denying the residents of Newtown Grant pedestrian access to the park.
In response to a question from Mr. Grosso, Mr. Stone said that any traffic light installed at Rte 413 could be accessed “on demand”. Mr. Wert noted that the traffic light at Swamp Road at the entrance to Helen Randle Park is activated on demand. Such traffic lights remain green for the major roadways unless someone is attempting to enter or exit the park.
Mr. Bill Barrier, a resident, commented that he was very concerned for the safety of the children in the adjacent neighborhoods when the park was open to the general public, and events are held there.
Mr. Stone said that access to the neighborhoods from the park would be part of the field planning process.
Mr. Greg Killian asked if there were different costs associated with each plan, and what the proposed budget would be. He also asked if berms would be placed as barriers to Pheasant Point.
Mr. Stone responded that this is the conceptual plan only, and that costs have not been calculated. He said that buffering of neighboring homes would be planned as part of the playing field planning.
Mr. Levine suggested that the two adjoining communities of Pheasant Point and St. Andrew’s Briar discuss at their Homeowners Association meetings whether they are interested in easy pedestrian access to the park, and what buffering they would like to see included in the plans. He again reminded those in attendance that the topic for this evening’s discussion is access to the park only.
Mr. McCrane commented that St. Andrew’s Briar does not have any common ground that could be used for pedestrian access, and all access to the park would be through private property.
Mr. Tony Lauro, a resident said that he would not like to see pedestrian access to the park through the adjoining neighborhoods because people might drive to these neighborhoods and park rather than make use of the parking lots.
Mr. Patrick Adams, a resident, expressed concern about placing parking close to the Newtown Elementary School playgrounds.
Mr. Davis explained that Council Rock School District had approached Newtown Township about some shared parking areas, as the schools have parking problems during special events. He also noted that the school district has an agreement for use of the fields during the school day, and that the park would not be heavily used during school hours.
Ms. Jill Keifer, a resident, asked who had determined that Newtown Township needed additional playing fields. She said that she did not think the park is necessary, and she asked how the construction would be funded.
Mr. Levine explained that all Township owned land had been evaluated and Township recreational needs had been projected as part of the preparation for the Township Comprehensive Plan, which was completed in 1999. He said that the plan was discussed at public meetings for over a year before the Board of Supervisors had voted to support it. The Woll Tract was designated as an active recreation area at that time, and the 2004 budget allocated funds for a Master Plan for the park. He said that budgets are only approved for this year, but that it was expected that future budgets would be approved that include funding to phase in the park.
Mrs. Crescenzo commented that she did not think that the Township needed additional fields for active recreation. She said that she believed that a community center, providing recreation for non-athletes, particularly teens and seniors, is more urgently needed.
Mr. Levine said that the purpose of this public meeting is to address access to the Woll Tract as an active recreation park, and that this is the only charge given to the Park and Recreation Board by the Board of Supervisors at this time. He said that the Board of Supervisors could address the direction that this Board takes in long term planning for recreation.
Mr. Stone commented that Toole Recreational Planning would be consulting on this project to determine the community needs for specific sports fields. He said that the Township Master Plan points out a need for additional active recreation fields, and this Master Plan is available to residents for review.
Mrs. Susan Alikan, a resident, asked if this park would be free and whether it would be open to non-residents.
Mr. Wert said that Township organized sports leagues pay a $2.00 per participant fee to reserve fields for their playing seasons, and that the School District has access during the school day, however when fields are not assigned for school or league use, any member of the public is free to use the park for play.
Mr. Mitch Green, a resident, said that he thought that Concept Plan 3 should be eliminated from consideration. He also thought that there should be no lighted fields.
Mr. Clancy noted that the Township Comprehensive Plan has always allowed for some lighting on fields in this park. He said that the Park and Recreation Board would evaluate the use of lights in neighboring municipalities to formulate a curfew, and that lights would be strictly regulated.
Mr. Tim Deegan and Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern that the Township does not have sufficient funding for this project. Mrs. Crescenzo noted that the Township is also facing a need to expand the municipal complex. She was concerned that a tax increase would be necessary to fund all of the projects under consideration.
Mr. Levine said that the Board of Supervisors has budgeted for a master plan for this park. He said that a master plan is necessary to proceed with future budgeting and grant applications. In order to complete the master plan, an access plan must be chosen.
Mr. Steve Oraskin asked if any plan had considered limiting access to one way in, one way out, with a median on Rte 413.
Mr. Stone said that such concepts as right turn only had been discussed, however a decision as to access to the Clark Nature Center must be made before such a plan could be implemented. He also noted that if any entrance at Rte 413 were chosen, that PennDoT would have input.
Mr. Lauro asked if the existing fields at Newtown Elementary School could be incorporated into the park, leaving more passive recreation areas close to the neighborhoods of St. Andrew’s Briar and Pheasant Point.
Mr. Levine explained that those fields belong to Council Rock School District.
Mrs. Karen D’Aprile, a resident expressed concern that an entrance at Rte 413 would cause traffic problems. She asked if the road would be widened.
Mr. Stone said that deceleration lanes would be added at the advice of PennDoT if Rte 413 were chosen as an entrance.
Mr. John D’Aprile asked if any grants had been sought for the park.
Ms. Keifer commented that the residents in homes adjoining the park were not here when the comprehensive plan was made, and that these residents had no input into the plan for playing fields.
Mrs. Crescenzo noted that next year’s budget projects a $400,000 allocation for a park entrance.
Mr. Mitch Green, a resident, commented that he thought that the Woll tract is no longer a desirable location for a park because of its proximity to residential neighborhoods and schools. He expressed concern that people from outside of the area would come to the park for tournaments.
Mr. Stone noted that proximity to schools and residential neighborhoods made the Woll Tract a very desirable location for recreational facilities.
Mr. McCrane said that the PDF file of the Comprehensive Plan that is available on-line does not show lighted fields.
Mr. Grosso reminded those in attendance that field planning would be part of subsequent meetings, but that this evening’s meeting was to address access to the park only.
Mr. Sal Patel, a resident, asked if the storm water management plans addressed any rise in the water table near Pheasant Point. He noted that there is already a problem with water run off on the cul-de-sac.
Mr. Stone said that the plans will include some very innovative storm water management techniques that re-charge the water into the ground. He said that the park is adjacent to a stream corridor, and cleansed water would be filtered into the steams.
Mr. Levine commented that Newtown sports organizations do not have access to neighboring communities’ fields, and that our sports organizations have ever growing numbers of participants, all in need of playing and practice fields.
Mr. David Felker, a resident and President of Newtown Athletic Association, parent organization for Newtown Little League, agreed with Mr. Levine, that the Newtown teams are not permitted to use Upper Makefield or Northampton fields. He said that he projects an enrollment of 850 children in Little League next year, with the 5-6 year old group growing fastest. He said that because of the lack of field availability, the children in Newtown Grant must join the Upper Makefield Babe Ruth league.
Mr. Howard Lamonic, a resident, said that he fully agreed with Mr. Felker that playing fields are urgently needed in Newtown. He asked if a turning lane would be needed if the Wrights Road entrance were chosen.
Mr. Oraskin asked if there had been consideration of increased traffic on Eagle Road if Wrights Road were chosen for an entrance.
Mr. Lauro asked if any traffic studies had been done for these plans.
Mr. Levine said that a great deal of information is available from recent traffic studies done for the traffic lights at Wrights Road and North Drive. He said that he did not know whether a turning lane is necessary on Wrights Road. He said that after an entrance is chosen additional studies might be necessary.
Mr. McCrane commented that he did not think that the Clark Nature Center should be accessed as part of this park. He also did not think that Township money should be used to alleviate the school district’s parking problems.
Mr. Stone said that the Park and Recreation Board must first decide whether they wish to combine access to Clark Nature Center with the Woll Tract. This could be accomplished by a traffic light with pedestrian crossing, a tunnel, or a pedestrian overpass.
Mr. Levine said that the Township and School District have had an ongoing relationship and that their plans and projects frequently overlap and they must continue to work together for what is best for the residents of Newtown and the children in Council Rock’s Newtown schools. He said that he would like to try to establish a link on the Township’s Web site to these plans, and would like to allow the Board to review the minutes of this meeting and consider all of the community comments before any access decision is made. He said that there would be two meetings for planning of the fields. Once a Master Plan is completed, plans can begin to implement the park. He said that granting cycles are typically two years. He said that he hoped that thepark would be phased in with some fields available in two years, and completion of the entire park within five years.
Mr. Stone asked for an indication from those in attendance for a preference for any particular plan. A show of hands indicated a lack of support for Concept Plan 3, with each of the other plans favored by some in attendance.
Mr. Levine thanked those residents in attendance for their input. He said that their comments would be considered carefully as decision on park access is made. He noted again that PennDoT would determine if a traffic light is necessary, or if roads must be widened. He said that dates of future meetings would be announced on the Township Web site.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Davis moved to accept the minutes of June 2, 2004. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mrs. Sutton abstaining.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that the day camp program had begun, with 260 children enrolled and 17 children participating in the extended day program. He noted that there has been a 21% increase in revenue and a 12% increase in participation over last year in Park and Recreation department programs.
The Board discussed whether they should bring the Concept Plans to the Planning Commission before any decision on access has been made. It was agreed that the plans should be presented to the Planning Commission and their input should be sought before this Board makes any decision as to which access plan should be recommended to the Board of Supervisors for approval.
Mr. Clancy reported that Bernie Bires is to be Grand Marshal of the First Fourth Parade on Saturday, July 10. He encouraged those in attendance to support all of the wonderful activities planned for the day.
Mr. Grosso asked if the Little League and Newtown Colonials should be contacted about making a presentation before the next budget cycle gets underway.
Mr. Wert said that he would contact the two leagues about their presentations. He said he would also prepare a review of the Park and recreation budget to date.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary