PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of September 1, 2004. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mrs. Sutton abstaining.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, September 1, 2004, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice-Chairman; Michael Clancy, John Davis, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill, and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Scott Harp, Township Supervisor; Allen Fidler, Planning Commission Liaison and Russell G. Strover, Naturalist.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
The agenda was reviewed.
Mr. Levine asked those in attendance who wished to speak on the Woll Tract plans to sign in. He also provided forms for written comment. He suggested that the two presentations of new business be moved to the top of the agenda.
Mr. Grosso moved to alter the agenda to hear presentations from Bucks County Community College and Newtown Racquetball Club to the top of the agenda. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Bucks County Community College – Sketch Plan
Mr. John Watkins, Architect, Mr. Mark Grisso, Facilities Manager and Ms. Donna Weaver, Engineer, presented a plan to expand the existing Music and Art Building at Bucks County Community College. Mr. Watkins said that the addition would be three stories high with entrances at ground level and at the second level. He said that the footprint is 3800 square feet. He said that the original Music and Art Building had been erected in 1996, at which time the college had gone through the land development process with the Township.
Mr. Grisso said that the Community college sits on a 202-acre lot, and with the addition, 100 acres would remain as open space.
Mr. Levine moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors waive any preservation or fee in lieu of open space requirement because of the pre-existing open space already provided and the non-profit nature of the Community College. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Newtown Racquetball Club – Preliminary Plan
Mr. Jason Engelhart of Langon Engineering, presented a preliminary plan for an expansion of the Newtown Racquetball Club pool area. He noted that the expansion planned would include a pool and some additional space. The pool would be a children’s pool, and the additional space might be used for party rooms, additional locker rooms, or meeting rooms. The total square footage of the expansion is 14,000 square feet, with an 11,300 square foot building footprint.
Mr. Engelhart said that a plan had been presented to this Board a year ago, but it has been changed. He said that a few variances had been granted by the Zoning Hearing Board for parking.
Mr. Levine said that he was not sure of the fee in lieu of open space for this expansion, and asked Mr. Engelhart to contact the Township Codes Department to calculate the fee, then contact this Board with the number. (The fee has been calculated at $14,622.)
Mr. Levine moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space for this project. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
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.
Mrs. Kelly moved to accept the minutes of August 4, 2004. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Messrs. Davis and O’Neill abstaining.
Mr. Levine provided copies of the section of the Newtown Township Comprehensive Recreation Plan dated April 21, 1999 dealing with development of the Woll Tract for active recreation. He noted that the access to the park has not been chosen yet. He also noted that the playing fields depicted on the plan are what was thought to be required in 1999, and community needs and preferences might have changed, and that the plans would be adapted accordingly. He asked that residents limit their comments to discussion of facilities to be located in the park. He said that a special meeting on September 29, 2004 would address lighting for playing fields. If residents wished to comment on whether they would like to see lighted fields they could indicate so this evening, but discussion of selection of lights or placement of lights would be discussed at the September 29th meeting.
Resident Amy Fallik commented that she did not see any softball fields on the plan. She said that she would like the Woll Tract developed as a sports park with softball fields, restrooms and a snack shed. She said that she did not think a playground would be necessary.
Resident Michael Minllin said that he would like to see lighted soccer fields in the park. He noted that his children had played under temporary lights and that they were dangerous. He would also like a snack bar and restrooms.
Resident Beau Trementier said that he had participated in the Council Rock baseball program for many years, playing at Pickering and Chandler fields. He said that Newtown’s facilities cannot compare with the excellent facilities in neighboring communities. He said that lighted fields are necessary for a competitive baseball program.
Resident Michael Becker said that his children have not participated in Newtown athletics because the facilities are inadequate. His children have been forced to play in programs in neighboring communities. He would like to see tournament quality facilities with restrooms and a snack bar.
Resident John Kraft said that he would like the park to include lighted baseball and soccer fields, restrooms and snack bar, but did not think that a playground is necessary.
Resident David Falker said that he is President of Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association. He said that he has been hoping for this project since 1999, at which point it was a Township 3 to 5 year priority. He said that he would like to see a tournament quality facility. He noted that he had heard some objections in the community to hosting of tournaments, however they do not generate the traffic that many residents fear. He said that his organization would like to host a pre-season tournament and perhaps district finals. He asked that the facility include 60 foot and 90 foot baseball fields with lights. He said that if three baseball fields were provided, his organization would work with Rock Girls Softball to give up baseball field 5 at Helen Randle Park. He said that his organization currently has an enrollment of 600 children. He noted that the largest enrollment is among children 5 and 6 years old. He also noted that of the 9000 residents of Newtown between 2 and 17 years of age, 4000 participate in team sports. He said that he thought that these numbers would continue to grow as new homes are built within the Township.
Resident Vinod Tuliani said that he lives in Pheasant Point, backing onto the proposed park. He said that he has two children who will benefit by having a new park, however he is concerned about sound and lighting. He expressed concern about PA systems announcing games, and about light pollution. He asked that buffering be included in the plans. He also asked that the park be more inclusive, with provisions for walking trails, playgrounds and tennis courts.
Resident Alex Trementier said that she plays for the Rock Girls Softball travel team. She has visited many beautiful facilities in neighboring communities, and would like to see Newtown have such facilities to host travel events and tournaments. She said that Rock Softball has become very competitive and that to stay competitive better facilities are needed. She said that team sports teach children teamwork, responsibility, and friendship. Her team requires that all players maintain a B average in school. She said that she would like to see lighted softball fields with dugouts.
Resident Jeffrey Best said that he would like to see the plan include restrooms, and some landscaping to provide shade. He would also like to see the existing facilities better maintained.
Mr. Evan Stone, Landscape Architect for Pickering Corts and Sommerson, said that the plan is to be a community park, and will include landscaped areas as well as sports fields.
Mr. Sam Patel, a resident of Pheasant Point said that he is concerned about the proximity of the proposed park to his home. He said that there is currently a large buffer of trees between his home and the park, and he would like it to remain. He would also like to see a fence between the park and his development to prevent direct access to the park from his development. He asked that lighting be located closer to Durham Road and that tennis courts be included in the plan.
Resident Michael Hammer said that he is President of Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer Association. His organization has an enrollment of 1200 children, 500 of which are Newtown residents. His organization has access to only one Newtown playing field, which is shared with Council Rock soccer. He would like to see lighted playing fields to extend the time that practice can be conducted. He would also like to see parking located such that it would alleviate some overcrowding at the elementary schools when the schools host special events.
Resident Dorothy McCrane said that she lives in St. Andrew’s Briar. She said that she does not think that lighting is necessary. She said that she had not known about the park plans when she bought her home. She is concerned about noise, in particular the air horns used by some teams. She would like that no trees be removed and that buffer planting be included in the plans.
Resident Jim McCrane said that he was authorized to speak on behalf of the residents of St. Andrew’s Briar. He said that he did not think that Mr. Levine would allow discussion of lights at this evening’s meeting. He said that the residents of his development were in agreement that they do not want lights in the park, and that they are also concerned about noise pollution. He said that his development has 13 children under the age of 7 years, and all would benefit by having the park. The residents of his development are in support of the park, however they are very concerned about lights and noise generated by evening games and tournaments.
Resident Greg Killian said that he was speaking on behalf of the residents of Pheasant Point. He said that the residents of his development are in support of the park, and would like to see a playground and tennis courts included. They would not like the park to include lighted fields, and they are concerned about noise pollution.
Resident Seth Jackson said that he lives in Pheasant Point and he would like a barrier to prevent access to the park from his development. He would also like basketball courts included in the plan.
Resident Debbie Hennessey said that she would like a small playground, restrooms and snack bar included in the plan. She said that a playground is appreciated by parents bringing younger siblings to games. She said that she would also like parking located near each playing field.
Resident Philip Tully said that he thought that in addition to a snack bar and restrooms, the plan should include a clubhouse with a meeting room so that sports organizations could hold registrations and board meetings. He would also like batting cages included in the plan. He noted that by including batting cages, teams are able to make better use of the facilities for practices.
Resident Tom Hacker asked that a place be provided for storage of equipment, including field maintenance equipment. He also noted that he did not think that volleyball and in-line skating were still as popular as when the plan was first drawn, and he asked that basketball courts be included instead.
Resident Ed Denkin asked if there is a timeline in place for completion of this project. He said that he is the scheduler of fields for Newtown Little League. He said that in the 2004 season there were 34 teams for 12 and under. He said that the only 90 foot baseball field available is Pickering field.
Mr. Levine said that the Park and Recreation Board will hold a third community meeting on September 29, then devote its October 6 meeting to preparing recommendations for Pickering Corts and Sommerson, which will then be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. He said that the Board hopes to have money budgeted in 2005 to begin the project and phase in fields over the next few years. In response to a question from Mr. Felker he said that in addition to Township money, grants would be sought for funding of the playing fields.
Resident Bill Reading said that he would like to see practice fields, batting cages and lights, all which would help with scheduling and make better use of the fields.
Resident Joseph Garvey, Vice President of Rock Girls Softball said that the Rock Travel Softball program has become increasingly competitive, and because of the lack of adequate facilities they lose Newtown players to neighboring communities each year. He said that upgraded facilities are essential to provide a competitive program for older girls. He also noted that because of lack of field space the T ball program for little girls had to be turned into a clinic. He said that the girls would also need lights for their fields, whether those fields are at Helen Randle Park or at the Woll Tract. He said that ideally a softball facility would be located all in one park, with lighted fields. He said that his organization has recently hosted a clinic attended by Olympic coaches. For such events to continue facilities must be improved. He said that at Helen Randle Park the girls cannot safely be taught to slide because of the rocky soil. Mr. Garvey said that he also supported the idea of a clubhouse and basketball courts.
Mr. McCrane said that he has noted that the soil on the Woll tract is also very rocky and might be a serious safety issue.
Resident Eric Bend said that as a parent volunteer he strongly supports the request for lighted soccer fields. He said that Center Park in Doylestown should serve as a model for Newtown’s plans. He also suggested that to help control trash management, a shaded picnic area be included.
Resident Keith Terry said that as a parent volunteer with CR Newtown Athletic Association he supports the request for lighted baseball fields. He would also like buffering provided for the neighboring residents.
Resident Sergei Karpovich said that he is a resident of Pheasant Point. He said that he thought that it would be impossible to provide a sports park with all that had been requested and to appease the neighboring residents’ concerns. He suggested that perhaps a different parcel be chosen as the site for the park. He said that he was concerned that properties surrounding the park would decrease in value because of the lights and the noise. He said that if the park is built, he would not want lights, especially after 9:00PM.
Resident John Reiss said that he is a volunteer with CR Newtown Athletic Association. He said that he would like to see the park developed as a sports complex with lighted fields, restrooms, snack bar and clubhouse. He also said that he would like safety concerns addressed by fencing around fields to protect spectators. He also asked that fields be planned with proper drainage so that they can be used quickly after a rain.
Resident Howard Lemonick said that he is Vice President of CR Newtown Athletic Association. He complemented the Board on the improved conditions at Chandler fields. He said that he would like to see the fields placed as far from the residential properties as possible and basketball courts included in the plan.
Resident Stephanie Lochenko said that she is a member of Mid Atlantic Premier Showcase Soccer (MAPSS) She said that MAPPS sponsors showcases for competitive soccer players for college coaches. He has successfully provided showcases for Yardley Makefield, however Upper Makefield and Newtown are not competitive in soccer because they do not have the facilities.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he is concerned about the budget to pay for such a facility. He does not want lights or a PA System. He is concerned that providing such a park will cause a tax increase.
Resident Pat Cawley said that he is President of Rock Girls Softball. He said that his organization would work with the boy’s baseball organization to equitably share facilities.
Resident John Duggan said that our community sports organizations are losing players to Northampton and Tri-Township because of our field shortage.
Mr. Garvey asked if the Board had evaluated the existing space in the parks. He suggested that there might be space at Helen Randle Park for basketball. He also suggested that issues at Helen Randle Park should be resolved before beginning to build another park.
Mr. Levine agreed with Mr. Garvey that girls and boys sports must be treated equally. He also said that the Board is concerned about the maintenance of the existing fields and will continue to work to improve them. He said that Ann Toole has been evaluating the field needs for the various sports and age groups. He said that her findings are in keeping with the opinions expressed by the public this evening. He said that after the October 6th regular Park and Recreation Board meeting, he expected to give Mr. Stone information on what should be included in the Master Plan. Mr. Stone has expressed to him a turn-around time of 60 days. He said that plans would then be submitted to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. He said that he hoped to have the plans available on the Web site. Although the four access concept plans had been shown to the Planning Commission, there was not a consensus recommendation.
Mr. Stone repeated that the Master Plan calls for a community park, not a sports complex.
In addition to public comment, written comments were submitted by residents Chip Meara, requesting lighted soccer, baseball and softball fields and a walking trail and John Cannon, requesting lighted soccer fields. Mr. Meara suggested a curfew for the lighted fields.
Board of Supervisors
Mr. Harp Reported that he had been in touch with Judge Durkin of Pottstown about the formation of a PAL sponsored Pop Warner football team. Judge Durkin had indicated to Mr. Harp that he would be willing to meet with an interested sub-committee and share the Pottstown By-Laws. Mr. Harp said that the by-laws used in Pottstown are very simple and do not have as many restrictions as the PAL By-laws in place in Philadelphia. Mr. Harp said that he hopes to form a sub-committee to meet with Judge Durkin and some of the interested parents in the community in the autumn, with a goal of beginning a football team in fall of 2005. He said that he has also been in conversation with the athletic directors at Council Rock North and Newtown Middle School, who are eager to work with him on possible field sharing in exchange for Mr. Harp’s help in fundraising for a new scoreboard for the football field.
Mr. Fidler reported that the Capital Planning Committee had heard a presentation by Delta Development Group about the loss of Earned Income Tax revenue as other municipalities enact their own EIT.
Mr. Fidler reported that the Planning Commission had heard Mr. Levine’s presentation on access to the Woll Tract. He noted that some of the members recall an agreement to allow an easement between Newtown Elementary School and St. Andrew’s Elementary School. He said that although there were a number of different preferences among the commission members, the majority did prefer a Wrights Road access, although some would have liked access through 413 also.
In addition, the Planning Commission reviewed applications to the Zoning Hearing Board, and land development by Hovnanian for age restricted housing at the By-Pass and Buck Road, and conditional use for a tearoom in the Sparkles building.
Mr. Davis reported that he had seen an article in the paper stating that the County would be reducing its funding to senior centers. The Board discussed speaking to the Township program coordinators about senior participation in recreation programs, and in Township residents’ participation in the Council Rock Senior Center.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary