PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MARCH 2, 2005
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Sutton moved to accept the minutes of March 2, 2005. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, March 2, 2005, 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: William Wert, Park and Recreation Director, Russell Strover, Naturalist; and Scott Harp, Township Supervisor.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM. He said that he would turn over the meeting to Mr. Grosso at 8:30 PM, as he had another obligation.
Mr. Levine asked that Mr. Michael Hammer of Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer Association make a brief presentation of soccer field needs before the Board heard public comment on other matters. He said that while the Board has heard regularly from the baseball/softball organizations, and has made regular recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for field improvements, the community’s soccer organizations have never been invited to make such presentations. He noted that he had contacted Newtown Soccer Association and Council Rock United Soccer Association also, but that these organizations had not responded.
Mr. Hammer said that Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer had provided statistics to Anne Toole for both the Woll Tract and for a park being developed in Upper Makefield. He was surprised to learn that, considering the large number of Newtown children enrolled in the three soccer programs in the area, the master plan for the Woll tract includes only one lighted multipurpose field, which would be available for soccer, lacrosse, and football. He said that the enrollment of Newtown residents in Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer is larger than in baseball and softball. Of the 1263 children in his program 502 are Newtown residents.
Mr. Clancy noted that Council Rock United Soccer has 600 children and Newtown Soccer has 300 children. He said that there is very little duplication of children in more than one soccer program. He explained that the there are no geographic boundaries for enrollment as in the baseball programs, and so children from other Townships participate in the Newtown programs, and Newtown children participate in programs in Yardley and Northampton.
The Board discussed possibly using baseball outfields as soccer fields. Mr. Hammer said that in Upper Makefield they use some baseball outfields, but he expressed concern about conflicts with Little League, which is sponsoring an increasingly popular fall ball program. The baseball fields can only be used when there are no permanent home run fences on the fields.
Mr. Hammer said that his organization now has 18 travel teams. The organization rents temporary lights powered by a generator for $3000 for three weeks each fall. They light one field for three hours Monday through Thursday, and are able to allow each team the use of half of the field for one and one half hours per week. With this arrangement they are only allowing 16 of their teams evening practice in the fall. He said that games are on weekends during the day.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Hammer said that noise from the generator has not been a problem to the neighbors of the fields in Upper Makefield. They have agreed to the restricted hours on Monday through Thursday, and have alternated fields between Brownsburg Road and Sol Feinstone School year to year.
Mr. Levine said that the lighting proposed for the Woll tract would meet very strict lighting standards, and some research would have to be done to learn whether the temporary lights would meet those standards before they would be allowed on fields in Newtown.
The Board asked whether the soccer organizations were also using school district fields. Mr. Hammer said that all of the various sports organizations were using school district fields after the school teams have finished practice, although they have not been allowed on high school fields. He also pointed out that although Upper Makefield is building a soccer park, they would be losing the use of the fields in Washington Crossing Park, and so would really only be gaining one additional field.
Mr. Wert said that the field behind Staples would not be available until the fall, and that there are a number of requests from sports organizations for use of that field. Mr. Levine suggested that Mr. Hammer make a formal request for access to that field. He noted that there had been some discussion of possibly lighting that field also.
Approval of Minutes
The recording secretary noted that page three, paragraph nine of the minutes of February 2, 2005 should read “…part of the budget”.
Mrs. Kelly moved to accept the minutes of February 2, 2005, as amended. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 4-0-2, with Messrs. Clancy and Davis abstaining.
Reports of Sub-Committees
Park Development – Review of Woll Tract Draft Master Plan
Mr. Levine said that he would open the floor to public comment on the draft master plan before the Board discussed its presentation at the Board of Supervisors Work Session.
Resident Steve Goodman said that he would be running for a position on the Board of Supervisors in the coming election. He said that he is a strong proponent of public recreation and of the proposed Woll tract park. He said that he is eager to see the site developed and he has spoken to a great many members of the community who also support the plan. He asked whether the park would include Pop Warner football fields.
Mr. Levine reported to the Board that the Township had recently hosted a meeting to discuss Pop Warner football. He said that he, Mr. Wert, Mr. Harp, Mr. Grosso, David Felker of Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association (CRNAA), Township Manager Robert Pellegrino, John Boyle, Assistant to the Township Manager, and Police Chief Duffy had met with Jon Butler, National Executive Director of Pop Warner, and Judge John Durkin, who had organized Pop Warner in Pottstown under the umbrella of the Police Athletic League. Bux-Mont League has granted permission to organize an association. Bux-Mont has designated the boundaries as the same as for Council Rock High School North. At this time there is not information available as to the extent of interest in the program; this information would be available after a registration has taken place. Mr. Felker indicated that CRNAA would possibly be willing to allow a football board to be formed under the CRNAA 501(c)(3).
Mr. Goodman expressed interest in helping to organize the Pop Warner league.
Resident Walter Leck expressed great concern about the placement of the park near his home. He said that there is a need for preservation of open space as Newtown becomes increasingly developed. He was very concerned about both noise and light, explaining that he is very early to bed in the evening and early to rise in the morning. He said that he had recently installed lights, as per Township requirements, on a new building on his property, and has had numerous complaints from his neighbors. His lights meet all of the Township’s restrictive requirements, and are still a nuisance to his neighbors, so he questioned how sports lighting would not be the same nuisance. He said that he thought that the location of parking areas so close to his property would also be a source of disruptive noise throughout the evenings and weekends. He said that he was very concerned about use of the fields by adult leagues, which could involve some tailgating late into the evening.
Mr. Levine reviewed the proposed lighting standards to be used in the park, 1/10 of 1-foot candle at the boundary of residential properties. 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. He strongly suggested that Mr. Leck attend the Board of Supervisors work session on March 21, 2005, at which this plan would be discussed. He said that the Park and Recreation Board is an advisory board, but that the Board of Supervisors would make all decisions concerning a finalized master plan.
Resident David Fleming questioned why the draft master plan shows distances from the playing fields to Blayze Court, but not to his and Mr. Leck’s homes. He asked if the soccer organization is in need of additional fields, why haven’t any fields been placed on the land designated as “passive recreation” and “bird sanctuary”. He said that he thought that the inconveniences of the park should be shared equally between the new developments along Eagle Road and the homes along Durham Road. He also asked that the Board consider moving the lighted fields to the rear of the park, instead of clustered toward the front.
Mr. Levine said that residents of the developments along Eagle Road had attended all of the advertised meetings at which these plans were developed. They had requested that the distances from their homes to the lighted fields be measured and noted on the plans. He said that it was his understanding that the Board of Supervisors had unanimously agreed that the 10 acres dedicated to the Township by Elliot Builders would only be used for passive recreation and emergency access.
(Mr. Levine turned the meeting over to Mr. Grosso at this point)
Mr. Leck said that he has lived in Newtown his entire life, and he feels that Newtown has been forced to bear the burden of development in the Jointure, while Wrightstown and Upper Makefield have preserved open space and developed only large homes on large lots. He said that Newtown has all of the apartments, stores, and industrial areas. He suggested that Upper Makefield and Wrightstown should be asked to provide lighted playing fields for the sports organizations on their parklands. He questioned why all Township residents should be asked to bear the cost of providing evening recreation for the Township’s children, especially when they are already providing, through their school taxes, for such superior educational facilities. He asked why the school district had not made all of their fields available to community organizations. He asked if an effort had been made to utilize the fields in Tyler Park, or if any of Tyler’s open field area could be used for soccer and football.
Mr. Leck expressed concern about having the proposed park open in the evenings, and asked whether the park would be locked up at night. He said he was very worried about his own liability because children would trespass onto his property to create shortcuts from the developments to the park. He noted that he has dangerous equipment for his business stored on his property, and has already had problems with trespassers using land he owns along the high tension wires to ride all terrain vehicles. He questioned whether locating a park along Route 413 would be safe, noting that children who live in nearby developments would walk to the park along the side of the road, as no sidewalks have been planned. He has also had poachers on his property. He said that he fears that these situations will become much worse when the land is developed into a public park. He again urged the Board to consider leaving the Woll tract as open space, to provide sanctuary for wildlife.
Mr. Grosso urged Mr. Leck and Mr. Fleming to attend the Board of Supervisors work session meeting to make their concerns known.
Mr. Harp said that he had recently met with the Superintendent of Council Rock School District, and had begun to discuss better cooperation in sharing the playing fields as well as the school buildings for recreation programs, and he hoped that there would be some improvement in this arrangement in the future. He urged Mr. Fleming and Mr. Leck to attend the work session, and said that the Supervisors were also very concerned about children walking along Route 413 to the park.
Mr. Clancy said that he had attempted to contact both Mr. Fleming and Mr. Leck when Ms. Toole was conducting preliminary interviews for planning the park. He said that his calls to them had not been returned, and so plans proceeded without their input. The Board noted that before the park is open to the public, meetings would be held to determine the restrictions placed on usage.
Mrs. Sutton reported that she has been speaking to senior citizen groups throughout the Township, and is beginning to investigate interest in senior citizen specific recreation programs. She will also be meeting with the director of the Council Rock Senior Center.
Mr. Wert provided data from the 2000 census, noting that 15% of the population is over 55 years of age. He said that there is no way of knowing what percent of these residents are active, retired and interested in senior programs.
Board of Supervisors
Mr. Harp reported that he would begin working on the First Fourth committee shortly. The Board agreed to hold the celebration on the Saturday after the 4th of July.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert said that he had some concerns about the lighting of the playing fields at the Woll Tract. He said that he anticipated scheduling disagreements if the various sports organizations have contributed to the cost of lights. He suggested that the sub-committee consider either eliminating the lights or asking the Township to pay for them. He said that if the Township pays for the lights there could be no dispute that the Township would control the use of the lighted fields.
Mr. Clancy said that the sub-committee would schedule a meeting before the Board of Supervisors work session at which they would discuss whether to accept sports contributions for lighting.
To follow up on the Pop Warner discussion, Mr. Wert had received e-mail from Mr. Felker stating that CRNAA had a very positive response to the formation of a Newtown Football League (NFL).
Mr. Wert reported that there had been an increase in recreation revenue of 1.29% over last year, and a decrease in participation of 6.3%. He attributed some of the decrease to late summer camp registration. He said that the program directors are studying program costs.
Mrs. Sutton reported that Goodnoe Elementary School would be celebrating Arbor Day on April 22. Mr. Clancy will be leading a craft and Mr. Strover will help students plant a tree at Roberts Ridge Park in memory of Pete Chesner. On Saturday, April 23, the Park and Recreation Board will plant a tree donated by Mr. Harp along the driveway into the municipal complex.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 10:00. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary