PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF NOVEMBER 9, 2004
DRAFT - SUBJECT TO AMENDMENT BY PARK AND RECREATION BOARD UNTIL APPROVED
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board held a special meeting on Tuesday, November 9, 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: William Wert, Park and Recreation Director and Russell G. Strover, Naturalist.
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM.
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.
Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of the Special Meeting of September 29, 2004. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Kelly moved to accept the minutes of October 6, 2004. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Clancy abstaining.
Discussion of Woll Tract Master Plan
Mr. Clancy said that the active recreation sub-committee had held eight meetings to discuss plans for the tract, including three Board meetings specifically called for public comment, and a number of smaller meetings with community, business, and sports organization leaders. He said that the sub-committee had agreed to ask this Board to include in the master plan:
Mr. Clancy said that as the sub-committee discussed plans, they agreed that there should be a recommendation for restrictions on the use of lights, controlled by a timer. They had also agreed that a PA system should be included in the plans. They thought that a community meeting room should be included to be used for Park and Recreation sponsored programs as well as sports organization meetings and registrations.
Mr. Grosso said that after discussing access to the park with the Planning Commission and with community members, the sub-committee agreed that the best plan for access would be through an entrance along Route 413, with a secondary access through Wrights Road.
Mr. Levine said that Pickering Corts and Summerson also felt that this would be the best choice for access. They had suggested that a traffic signal might be installed to help with easier access to both the Woll tract and the Clark Nature Center. There would also be less disruption to the existing ball fields at the elementary school. If access were through Rte 413, parking would be clustered at that entrance, farther away from residential neighbors.
Mr. Levine said that he and Evan Stone of Pickering Corts and Sommerson had been researching lighting standards and lighting ordinances in place in other municipalities. They had found that lighting used near astronomical observatories is the most restrictive, and and organization called the Dark Sky Organization has prepared sample ordinances to use as models. They recommend that a standard of 1/10 of 1-foot candle at the boundary of residential properties be adopted. This standard can be met by a number of sports lighting options known by names such as “Total Control Lighting”. As an example, Mr. Levine said that the measurement of “1-foot candle” would be equivalent to one birthday candle in a small, darkened room.
Mr. Clancy said that the sub-committee had discussed providing screening and buffering between the park and the residential properties. He noted that there already exists a thicket of trees between Pheasant Pointe and the park, but that there would have to be an increase in the plantings at the St. Andrew’s Briar boundary. He said that the sub-committee would like to consider some fencing to protect these developments from becoming shortcuts to the park, or from their residential streets becoming alternate parking areas.
In response to Mr. Davis’ question, Mr. Levine said that these recommendations would be given to Evan Stone to be incorporated into a draft Master Plan, which would then be reviewed by this Board, the Planning Commission and the public. After these reviews, a final Master Plan would be presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval.
Mrs. Sutton commented that she thought that the recommendations had been well thought out and had taken into consideration all of the community’s recreational needs, including the walking trail and playground.
Mrs. Kelly and Mr. O’Neill expressed agreement with Mrs. Sutton.
Mr. Jim McCrane said that he was very surprised to learn that the recommendation would include four lighted fields. He said that based on the size of the tract, he thought that it would be impossible to cluster the four fields and parking area along the Rte 413 side of the tract. He expressed frustration that he and his fellow residents had spent time attending these meetings to discuss their concerns and that their concerns had not been given any consideration. He also said that his community was not supportive of what would become the year-round evening use of the park.
Mr. Clancy responded that the original comprehensive plan for this tract had always included four lighted fields, and that the sub-committee had only changed the field uses. He pointed out that the park would not be used in the winter, and that the lights would not be used in the summer. The sports organizations interviewed had asked for the lights to extend their practice times and evening games in the early spring and fall. He said that the sub-committee hoped to work with Mr. Stone to keep the lighting as far away from the residential properties as possible while still providing the fields that the many Township residents involved in team sports have said that they require in order to remain competitive.
Mr. McCrane said that he felt that the Board had shown more consideration to the homeowners near Helen Randle Park when lights were suggested by the Girls Softball League.
Mr. Levine assured Mr. McCrane that this Board has considered the concerns of all of the homeowners near any park when lighting is being discussed. He said that if lights are to be included in the park, there will be strict standards for the lights, and for the use of the lights, and buffering will be included in the plans. He said that the sports organizations have indicated that they will be assuming financial responsibility for the purchase, installation and maintenance of the lights, and the systems that will be permitted are very costly.
Mr. McCrane said that at the meetings held for public comment on this park, most of the residents of the neighboring developments had said that noise is their number one concern. He said that the PA system had never even been discussed at the previous meetings. He said that his development was already facing noise issues because of parties at the Rosebank Winery. He noted that even though the winery meets the Township noise ordinance requirements, his development is disturbed by the noise. He said that his neighbors had all been concerned as much about the noise from games continuing into evening hours as they were about the light pollution.
Mr. Dave Felker and Mr. Howard Lemonick of Newtown Little League/Babe Ruth League said that they are required to announce players at All Star, Tournament and Play-off games.
Mr. Clancy said that the sub-committee wanted to include the PA system in the Master Plan, but with some restrictions. However they thought it would be important for communication and safety.
Mr. Levine said that the Board had not discussed the uses for a PA system, nor had they done any research on standards for use, as they had done for lighting. He said that he did not think that anyone would ever object to use of a PA system for emergencies, but he had some concerns about including a system for announcing games.
The Board discussed whether it was necessary to include a PA system in the Master Plan. Mr. Wert said that he did not think that these details would be included in a Master Plan. He said that the only reason to include lighting this early in the planning stage is to place the fields that will be lighted at a certain place within the park.
Mr. Felker said that his organization currently uses a portable PA system during the 30 days of tournament and play-off play. He suggested that the Township would be better able to control a permanent PA system incorporated into the park. He noted that the PA system at Chandler Field is only used for about 10% of games.
Mr. McCrane again stated that the residents in the surrounding developments were most concerned about noise, and would strenuously object to a PA system being used into the evening hours. He said that he is very concerned that a PA system that has been installed for safety only will ultimately be used for other purposes.
Ms. Susan Allison of Pheasant Point said that she is also concerned about the use of a PA system and felt that the Township residents requesting the system do not live close to the park and would not be bothered by it.
Mr. Mike Hammer said that he did not think that a system that met the Township noise ordinance requirements would be an issue.
Mr. Jules Rosenman of Council Rock Soccer said that his organization would not need a PA system.
After further discussion, it was agreed that a PA system for use for safety and emergency use only, should be included in the plan. All agreed that the first concern of all of the sports organizations who contributed to discussion was an improved quality of play, and that their first concern had been to increase the hours of practice and play by including lights. The Board agreed that a PA system would be a luxury, the use of which would need to be heavily regulated.
Mr. Levine said that in recent meetings, the Girls Softball League had requested lights for Helen Randle Park. He suggested that if the girls are able to light a field at Helen Randle Park, then the Woll Tract should only have two lighted ball fields and one lighted rectangular field.
In response to Mr. McCrane’s question, Mr. Levine again assured the public that the various sports organizations using the lighted fields would be responsible for all costs associated with purchase, installation and maintenance of lights. He said that use of the lighting would be governed by the Township. He said that the details of the use of the lights had not been worked out yet.
Mr. Clancy explained that the sub-committee was recommending that the park provide one lighted field for each sport.
Mrs. Dorothy McCrane said that she would not like a chain link fence installed between St. Andrew’s Briar and the park.
Mr. Clancy said that residents of the development would be consulted to determine what type of boundaries would be placed between the developments and the park.
Mr. Grosso moved to recommend to Pickering Corts and Sommerson that the Master Plan for the Woll Tract active recreation park include:
Access to the park is to be primarily through a signalized entrance on Rte 413, with secondary entrance through Wrights Road. Buffering, berming and landscaping between the park and neighboring properties should be included in the plan. All lighted fields should be located as close to the Route 413 side of the park as possible, with a lighting standard of 1/10 of 1 foot candle at the border of any residential property. Mrs. Sutton seconded.
Mr. McCrane asked if uses for the meeting room would be included in the motion.
Mr. Levine said that all rules governing the use of the park would be addressed at a later date.
Mr. Philip Calabro asked if the Board knew what the cost of the park would be, and whether disbursements to the project would be made based on a five-year plan.
Mr. Levine said that costs would be estimated as part of the master plan. At this time the only expense that has been budgeted by the Board of Supervisors is the design of a master plan.
The motion passed unanimously.
Recommendation to Board of Supervisors of 2005 Priorities
Mr. Levine said that the Board had been working on the Woll tract Master Plan, and had begun the design of the addition to the Roberts Ridge playground, and he thought that continuation of these projects would be a priority for the Board.
Mrs. Sutton said that she had noticed work being done on the parking area at Silver Lake Park, although it has not been a Board priority.
Mr. Strover said that in working with the Heritage Conservancy, he had learned that the Clark barn is of historic significance, and it is in need of roof repairs, and the floor needs to be repaved. He said that he was beginning to look into the availability of grant money for some of the restoration work. Mr. Wert noted that the Public Works department might be able to help with some of the work needed.
Mr. O’Neill said that he is still interested in planning a skate park. It was agreed that at this time there is not an appropriate location for a skate park. Mr. Wert suggested that he could put Mr. O’Neill in touch with someone who has been tracking usage of the skate parks in surrounding communities.
All agreed that Roberts Ridge Park should be a priority for the coming year, with emphasis on completion of plans for the addition of handicapped specific play events. Mr. Grosso also asked that a temporary shade structure be placed in the park.
Mr. Wert said that he expected the field behind Staples to be ready for use in the fall of 2005. He hoped that this could alleviate some of the field shortages that the leagues have been experiencing.
Mr. Davis asked if the Board should begin investigating ways to make use of the Wiggins tract. It was noted that the field is flat and might be a good location for rectangular field sports, however, there is no easy access point to the tract, nor is parking available.
Mr. Levine stressed that it would also be important in the coming year to continuously re-evaluate the condition of the existing parks, to keep them in good repair, and to watch for opportunities to improve them.
Mr. Levine said that he would report to the Board of Supervisors that the Park and Recreation Board considers development of the Woll tract for active recreation, completion of Roberts Ridge Park, including the addition of the handicapped specific play events and maintenance and improvement of existing parks as top priorities. He said that the Board would also continue to investigate the possibility of building a skate park in the future.
Review of Newtown Little League Field Requests
Mr. David Felker of Newtown Little League/Babe Ruth League presented a written list of field requests to the Board. He said that the list was written in priority order and that the costs were estimated.
Mr. Wert commented that item 6 on the list; the rebuilding of the 90 foot field at Helen Randle Park is an ongoing project that is part of the 2004 budget. He also said that he felt item 2, enclosed dugouts at the rear field at Chandler, is a luxury.
Mr. Felker said that he would like permission to build the dugouts, with the Little League assuming the financial responsibility. The Board agreed to this.
The Board discussed the remaining items on the list and agreed that all were reasonable requests. Mr. Felker said that if the Board agreed to the improvements being requested, that improvements would be complete and that the Little League/Babe Ruth League would only request the continued maintenance of the fields next year.
Mr. Levine moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the 2005 Park and Recreation budget include the following expenses requested by the Council Rock Newtown Little League and Babe Ruth League:
In addition, the Board recommends that the Board of Supervisors permit Council Rock Newtown Little League and Babe Ruth League to enclose the rear field dugouts at Chandler Park with a solid roof, floor and walls. Costs of this renovation are to be assumed by the Council Rock Newtown Little League and Babe Ruth League, and all appropriate permits and inspections are to be applied for. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Levine noted that Rock Girls Softball had been invited to present a detailed and prioritized list of requests for field improvements at this evening’s meeting, but had not appeared, and so at this time the Board has no recommendations for girls softball field improvements to be included in the 2005 budget.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 10:30PM. Mr. Levine seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary