PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF SEPTEMBER 29, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of the Special Meeting of September 29, 2004. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board held a special meeting on Wednesday, September 29, 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 Buck O’Neill, members. Also in attendance were Scott Harp, Township Supervisor; Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director and Russell G. Strover, Naturalist.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:40 PM.
Mr. Levine explained that this evening’s meeting had been scheduled as the final public meeting for comment on plans for development of the Woll tract for active recreation. He said that the Park and Recreation Board, as an advisory board, wanted to gather public input to help decide what facilities to recommend that the Board of Supervisors include in the plan for the park. After considering many factors, including recommendations from the Planning Commission, the data gathered by Toole Recreational Planning, and public comment, the Board would ask Pickering Corts and Sommerson to provide a first draft design for a master plan for presentation to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Levine said that the Park and Recreation Board would hold a special meeting to evaluate all of the public input from the three meetings, and then give direction to Evan Stone of Pickering Corts and Sommerson. He said that it is the Board’s understanding that a draft might be available in November for Board review. Because of a series of conflicts with Board of Supervisors budget meetings in the fall, the Park and Recreation Board would not hold a regular meeting to finalize plans until January.
Mr. Levine said that he had arranged for a presentation by Jerry McGovern of Musco Lighting, to demonstrate their Total Light Control system of playing field lights. Newtown Township has not contracted with Musco, and in the event that the Township elects to purchase field lighting, a competitive bidding process would be followed. Mr. Levine assured those in attendance that if the Park and Recreation Board does decide to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that lighted fields should be included on the Woll Tract, that only total light control systems would be considered. He noted that the lights at Northampton’s fields and at Macclesfield Park in Yardley are SC-2 lights and are not being considered for the Woll Tract.
Mr. McGovern said that Musco Lighting has been in the sports lighting business for 30 years. He explained that technology has advanced since the installation of such lights as the SC-2 lights that are at Northampton. He said that Total Light Control lighting had been developed to eliminate glare, spillage and sky glow, and is recommended by the FAA for fields near airports, and for fields near observatories. He showed a short video of the Total Light Control system as it was used to replace an SC-2 system at a baseball field. He also presented photographs demonstrating the comparison between the two systems. He noted that the system is designed by computer, taking into account the size of the fields to be lit and the location of neighboring homes, in order to adjust the screening of the lights to minimize flooding of light into the homes surrounding the park. After installation the lights are then further adjusted. He said that his firm guarantees that there will be no glare or spillage of light into neighboring homes, however he said that the lit fields would be visible to the neighbors if they look toward the park in the evening.
Mr. Levine again reminded that residents in attendance that the Township has no agreement with Musco at this time, and that the video was shown as a demonstration of the type of lighting that the Township might consider installing at the Woll Tract. He said that he would open the floor to public comment, and that those in attendance could direct questions to Mr. McGovern if they wished.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo said that she fully supports the Township’s interest in providing active recreation fields for children, however she expressed concern that the Park and Recreation Board has not provided a community center, a senior center or programming for non-athletes. Mrs. Crescenzo noted that there are lighted fields at the community college and that there are unlit fields at Council Rock High School North, and perhaps an agreement could be reached between the Township and the School District to share lighted fields. She expressed concern about the upcoming budget and noted that she anticipates that the development of this park will cause tax increases. She questioned whether the costs would outweigh the benefits, as it does not serve the entire community.
Mr. Levine suggested that those in attendance who wish to comment on Mrs. Crescenzo’s, or any other resident’s, remarks do so when they make their general comments, and not attempt to answer speakers directly.
Resident Mike Hammer said that he is a member of Upper Makefield/ Newtown Youth Soccer. He said that of the 1200 children enrolled in the program, 506 are Newtown residents. He said that the children would greatly benefit by the extended hours afforded by lighting on the fields. He said that lighting would allow for evening practice to continue into the autumn. He said that most soccer games are scheduled on weekend mornings and afternoons, and the lighted fields would almost exclusively be used for practice. In response to a question from Mr. Levine, Mr. Hammer said that his association had begun a grant process to obtain some funding for a contribution toward the lights from US Soccer.
Mr. Levine said that at this time no hours had been decided for use of lighted fields, however the lights would be set on automatic timers, and would be automatically turned off at a preset time.
Resident Mitch Green said that he was concerned because the poles for the lights are very ugly and would be visible during the daytime. He asked what the maximum height would be. He also said that he thought that there would be an increase in illegal drug activity if the fields were lighted at night.
Mr. McGovern said that in order to concentrate the light onto the playing fields for maximum playability, poles would need to be between 60 and 70 feet high. He said that a 200-foot baseball field requires four poles with 26 fixtures.
Resident Dorothy McCrane asked if an access point to the park had been chosen, and noted that lighted fields would require lighted access roads and lighted parking lots.
Mr. Levine said that an access plan had not been chosen, however the plan referred to as Plan 3, which had an interior road circulating the entire perimeter of the park with multiple parking lots throughout the park, had been eliminated from consideration. He noted that none of the plans being considered used the easement between Newtown Elementary and St. Andrew’s Elementary Schools, or the easement behind St. Andrew’s Briar.
Mrs. McCrane said that she is against lighted fields, as this will destroy the bucolic atmosphere of the area. She said that she did not think that the children would lose any benefits if lights were eliminated from the plan.
Mr. Green asked if the Board has already decided that lights are to be included in the plan.
Mr. Levine explained that the Board had not met to discuss the plans and the public comment. He noted that the plan could be designed with lights added later if a decision is not reached, by this Board or the Board of Supervisors at the time of the draft design.
Resident Jim McCrane said that he had three serious concerns: the unsightliness of the light poles as seen from a distance; the additional noise during evening hours coming from air horns and bull horns; and the additional noise generated by a PA system, during the day, and especially during evening hours. Mr. McCrane said that he is the representative of St. Andrew’s Briar Home Owners Association, and his development is opposed to lighted fields. The residents in his development support the development of the park for playing fields. He said that he, and many of the residents of his development, are also concerned about the costs associated with the project, and are concerned that the plans could generate a tax increase. He asked whether the inclusion of lights would cause an increase in the landscaping budget to provide adequate buffering between the residential developments and the park. He said that the residents would want buffering to impede access to the park from their neighborhoods, but would also like shielding of the lights.
Resident David Felker said that he is president of Newtown Little League and Babe Ruth League. He said that his organization represents 350 Newtown families. He has collected 315 signatures in support of lights for the baseball fields. He said, in response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s suggestions to use school or community college fields, that his organization has in the past, and continues to discuss use of these fields. He said that the school district’s fields are in almost constant use for school teams. In the evenings, the few fields available are also used by some Northampton teams. He said that his organization has researched the cost of lights as about $40,000. He said that his organization is ready to begin fundraising to contribute substantially to this cost. He said that he feels that the lights are necessary for the teams to remain competitive. Lighted fields extend the playing time in early spring and allow for evening practice. In response to Mr. Green’s remark about increased drug use, Mr. Felker commented that he thought that an involvement in organized competitive sports, supervised by adults, decreased the use of illegal drugs.
Resident Patrick Cawley said that he is president of Newtown Girls Softball Association. Which represents 400 Newtown girls. He said that to become and remain competitive, the student athletes need more practice and playing time. Lighted fields would allow increased practice time in spring and fall. He noted that the children in Newtown are very competitive athletes, many seeking college scholarships. It is important to provide these athletes with more fields and some lighted fields. He commented that he thought that the benefit to thousands of Newtown children far outweighed the cost in money and in inconvenience for the few homeowners who live near the park.
Mr. Levine reminded those in attendance that lighting is only being considered for the Woll tract, and not for any of the other playing fields in the Township. He asked if Mr. Cawley understood that Helen Randle Park, where the girls play, is not being considered for lights.
Mr. Cawley said that he is in full support for lighting at the Woll tract and that his organization would negotiate with the boys’ sports organizations for allocation of fields.
Mr. Davis asked if the baseball/softball fields would be used primarily for practice, as the soccer leagues have indicated that they would use the lights.
Mr. Felker said that baseball and softball do have weekday games, and the lighted fields would probably be used equally for games and practices.
Resident Rick Killian said that as president of Pheasant Point Homeowners Association, he was speaking on behalf of the Pheasant Point residents. He said that the residents are in support of the development of the park for playing fields, however they are very concerned about the glow from lights, the noise into the evening, and the use of PA systems. He said that the residents of his development feel that the timing of lights should be part of this discussion.
Mr. Levine said that these public meetings are to develop a design for the park. Discussion of park use and timing of lights will be discussed at a later time.
Mr. Killian said that the residents of his community are very concerned about the noise in the evening, especially if a PA system is used.
Resident Jerry McLaughlin of St. Andrew’s Briar said that he agrees with Mr. Killian that noise in the evening is a big concern for him. He said that while he enjoys the sounds of children playing on the fields at St. Andrew’s school, he would not appreciate that same level of noise throughout the evening. He also said that he did not think that there should be so much emphasis placed on highly competitive sports.
Mr. Cawley said that his organization was primarily interested in playing well, and would be very happy to agree in advance to prohibitions on PA systems and bullhorns.
Resident John Griswold said that he is a coach with Newtown Soccer Association. He said that because it gets dark earlier and earlier in the fall, his teams are not able to practice after mid-September, even though the season runs well into November. Weekends all fields are in use for games. In response to questions from some residents Mr. Griswold said that his league has games all day Saturday, beginning at about 9:00AM, and on Sunday between noon and 3:00PM. He said that he expected that on weekday evenings the league would primarily use the lighted fields for soccer practice. He noted that the travel teams do their own scheduling, and might have occasional weekday evening games, particularly to make up rained out games, but that he thought that they would also use the lights for practice.
In response to questions from Mrs. Crescenzo, Mr. Clancy said that the 2000 US Census has counted 9,000 children between 5 and 18 years old; the school district has 3,300 Newtown children between the ages of 5 and 9 enrolled in schools, and using census data projects that in 2010 there will be 3,800 Newtown children in the 5 to 9 age bracket. He said that of the 9,000 5 to 18 year olds currently in Newtown there are 4,000 participants in team sports. There is some overlap of baseball and soccer players.
Resident Ed Gibbons, representing Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer said that his organization has use of only one field in Newtown and there is a severe shortage of field availability for practice as it gets darker earlier. He said that he did not think that the teams would need to run practices late into the evenings.
Mr. Glen Hyman of Lower Makefield said that his son is a player in the Upper Makefield/Newtown soccer league. He noted that the Yardley Makefield Soccer (YMS) players have an advantage in being able to extend their practice time into early evening in the fall. He said that Newtown children need to have a similar advantage. He noted that he also disagreed with the comment that there might be increased drug use in a park with lights. He asked if the park would be used for adult sports, which would run later in the evenings. He suggested that the Board contact the Pennsbury Athletic Association and YMS, because he thought that these organizations contributed to the cost of the lights, and to the continued maintenance of them.
Resident John O’Donnell said that he has four children in the Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer program, and that he is a coach. He said that he thought that the sports organizations would be eager to compromise with homeowners about sound systems and loud noise, and would be amenable to contributing to the cost of lights. He said that he thought that participation in sports was an important part of children’s social development.
Resident Jay Cannon said that he is the travel coordinator of Upper Makefield/ Newtown Soccer. He said that the travel teams are for competitive, skilled players. He said that the lighted fields are necessary to allow for more evening practice time. He noted that many less affluent communities than Newtown have made an investment in their children by providing better fields, with lights for quality sports programs. He confirmed that the travel teams would use lighted fields primarily for practice, as games are generally on weekends only.
Resident Tom Kovacevich, a coach with Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer, said that he was impressed with the video. He said that he thought that the children would benefit greatly by the additional practice afforded by the extended use of fields in the evenings. He said that he thought that 9:00PM would be the latest time to keep the lights on during the week. He said that he thought that noise should be discussed early on, and that rules should be in place before the fields are open for use. He said that his organization would be willing to help with the cost of the lights.
Resident Steve Tremitere said that those concerned about the lights should attempt to visit sites where Total Control Lighting is already in use. He said that the technology prevents spillage and glare. He said that use of fields in the evening would be a great advantage to the children. He agreed with Mr. Kovacevich that keeping the lights on until 9:00PM would help a great deal.
Resident Carl Strickler said that as a little league coach he has seen some unsafe play as teams attempt to continue with games and practices after it begins to get dark. He said that it is necessary for the children’s safety to light some of the fields.
Resident Amy Fallik agreed with Mr. Strickler that safety is an important consideration when deciding on lighting the fields. She said that she too had seen girls and boys continue to play long after it has begun to get dark. He said that she would like to see lighted softball fields for girls.
Resident Tony Lauro said that he thought it is inappropriate to place lighted fields in a residential neighborhood, and that the Board should concentrate it’s effort on finding more appropriate locations for playing fields, making use of the high school and middle school fields. He said that lighting the fields will produce sky glow in the entire area.
Mrs. Kelly said that these fields are in full use by the school teams and by the sports tams throughout the school district, and more fields are needed. She said that this Board continues to work with the school district to make use of their fields whenever available.
Mr. McGovern said that the Total Control Lighting does not produce sky glow, glare or spillage, however the fields would be visible at night.
Resident William Barrier commented that he did not think it was appropriate to provide lighted fields for night play for young children. He said that he is disappointed that there has been no discussion of beautifying Newtown with more passive recreation areas and manicured parks. He said that he thought that there is too much emphasis on competitive sports. He said lighted fields and adult sports would bring unwanted behaviors to the community.
Mr. Harp responded that the purpose of this evening’s special meeting is to address the development of the Woll tract for active recreation. He said that at the regular scheduled meetings of the Park and Recreation Board work is done toward building and maintaining the Township’s other parks for more passive recreation. He noted that the Board has worked hard in recent years to open the Clark Nature Center and Roberts Ridge Park for passive recreation.
Mr. Clancy said that although the primary focus of the Woll Tract is active recreation, there has been some consideration given to walking trails and playgrounds in the park, and 9.5 acres of the park is completely dedicated to passive recreation.
Resident Keith Terry said that all of the children need additional time for practice in both the intramural and travel leagues.
Resident Marty Sommer said that he had purchased his farmhouse on Eagle Road because of the quiet setting and he would like to keep the status quo.
Resident Dorothy McCrane asked what hours the teams would use the fields during the weekend days. She said that she had purchased her home for its quiet residential neighborhood. She said that she did know that the Woll tract was to be developed as a park, however she did not know that the park would host tournaments and have lights.
Mr. Felker said that baseball is played on Saturdays beginning at about 9:00 AM and on Sundays beginning at noon. He said that with lights he would hope that the fields would be used from about 5:00PM until 9:00PM.
The Board discussed possibly visiting the Woll Tract to discuss field placement, or visiting the sites where Total Control Lighting is featured, but agreed that the tract is very rocky and unsafe for walking right now. Mr. Levine said that he would make the list of light locations available on the Township Web site.
Mr. Grosso moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary