PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF AUGUST 2, 2006
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, August 2, 2006, 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 was Russell G. Strover, Township Naturalist.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Promenade at Sycamore
Attorney David Sander was in attendance to discuss the proposed redevelopment of the former Acme site as “Promenade at Sycamore”, a mixed-use building consisting of a first story of retail and restaurant use, second story office space and the third story residential condominiums. The plans are in the process of being redesigned after review by the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission, while in support of the concept of mixed uses, objected to the size of the building. The plans are being scaled back somewhat and shifted to the north.
Mr. Sander explained that he had not submitted the plans to the Park and Recreation Board because this is a project put together between the Township and Elliott Builders by the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority. It had been an almost totally impervious retail location, and will continue to be retail with office and residential. The property has been purchased with a Redevelopment Agreement in place. No approvals had been given prior to the purchase. Typically a fee is collected by the Township to accommodate a new use, but this is a redeveloped property that had already been in use; the project replaces and existing use with what the Township has considered a better use, in keeping with the Sycamore Street revitalization. Because this redevelopment does not contribute to the need for additional recreational facilities the developer is requesting that the fee in lieu of open space be waived.
The Board discussed this suggestion. There was some concern about waiving the fee for a redevelopment project because there is a great deal of redevelopment in the Business Commons, and a precedent could be set.
Mr. Sander explained that this is a project put together by the Redevelopment Authority, and is not the same as retrofitting in the Business Commons.
The Board discussed seeking the advice of the Township Solicitor on fees for redeveloped properties. Mr. Levine suggested that the Solicitor be asked for his opinion on exemption for this project, and for other redevelopment projects. He also questioned whether the calculation of a fee would “net out” the existing structure (which predates the Ordinance and for which no fee has been collected), and whether this project is grandfathered into the previous Ordinance fee calculation that was based on the footprint, or the current Ordinance, based on the square footage of the project. Until the Solicitor has given his opinion, and until the Board has seen a plan for the project, it cannot make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Levine noted that since the Park and Recreation Board has been reviewing plans, it has only recommended that the fee be waived once, for a non-profit nursing home for a very small project, the enclosure of an atrium.
Mr. Sander said that the Redevelopment Agreement does state that “no fees will be waived”, however he had understood that to refer to filing fees, not recreation fees.
The Board briefly discussed accepting in-kind services from Elliott Builders for work on the Woll tract. This project would involve heavy equipment that would also be needed for the park. Mr. Sander said that he would discuss this idea with Elliot Builders.
Presentation by Sports Organizations
Patrick Cawley and Joseph Garvey were in attendance to discuss field needs for the Newtown Girls Softball League. The short list of requests included:
Mr. Garvey said that the adult volunteers of the league would be willing to be trained to use the maintenance machine. The infield dirt becomes very hard and difficult to slide on, unless the fields are cared for weekly. The machine, when used regularly, does an excellent job of keeping the dirt soft. The additional storage is needed because the Township stores maintenance equipment in the existing shed, and there is very little room for the softball equipment. The league would like to purchase temporary outfield fences, and the storage would also be needed for these.
Mr. Levine said that all of the requests seem reasonable. He would speak to Mr. Wert about each of them. The Board agreed to support these requests, however it was noted that there is very little money in the Park and Recreation fund for any projects. Fees that were anticipated have not yet been collected.
Mr. Cawley asked whether lights could be brought to any fields, since the development of the Woll tract is held up because of lack of funding.
Mr. Levine said that the Board of Supervisors has indicated that only the Woll tract could have lighted fields. He suggested that the softball league apply for temporary lights at Helen Randle Park, as the soccer league had done for the field at the Newtown Shopping Center. He said that the Board does expect to have some funds available for engineering of the Woll tract.
Mr. Garvey announced that the league will sponsor a tournament, “Hits for Heroes”, to raise funds for EMS, fire and police charities, on September 24.
DeLuca Corporate Center – 131 & 138 S. Sycamore Street – Preliminary Plan
Mark Haber of Pickering Corts and Summerson and Rick Gitter of DeLuca Builders presented a preliminary plan for an office building of 51,000 square feet, consisting of three levels, one below ground and two stories above ground. The building will be on the current site of St. Andrew’s Pre-School, and will serve as DeLuca’s corporate headquarters. The current footprint of the pre-school is approximately 15,000 square feet. Mr. Haber said that the property is currently 55% impervious surface and the project would increase impervious surface to about 60%. He said that the property is currently zoned R-2 residential, but the Jointure is considering a request to rezone it as TC, which would allow up to 80% impervious surface.
Mr. Levine said that the Board would await the opinion of the solicitor on whether the existing building is to be netted out of the fee calculation. The current Ordinance would calculate the fee based on square footage of the building.
Mr. Levine talked about the development of the Woll tract as a 50-acre park with playing fields. The concept plan has been completed but engineering has not begun yet. He said that the Board is willing to consider in-kind services in construction of the park.
Mrs. Sutton commented that she is very much in favor of accepting in-kind services for construction of the park if the Board of Supervisors would agree.
Mr. Levine moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that a fee in lieu of open space be accepted for the DeLuca Corporate Center at 131-138 South Sycamore Street. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Villas at Newtown Recommendation
Mr. Levine explained that McGrath Builders has sent its attorney to the July meeting, which did not have a quorum. Attorney Frank Dillon reviewed the plan with the members who had been in attendance. McGrath proposes to build 172 age-qualified homes on 58.77 acres on Upper Silver Lake Road, the Brandywine property. The existing farmhouse is to be preserved and possibly renovated as a single-family house. The development will have an 8,000 square-foot community center with indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, and meeting rooms. There will be 14.5 acres of open space, mostly wetlands, floodplains and woodlands. The existing screening of trees along Upper Silver Lake Road, and the buffer along the property line with The Reserve development are to remain. The development will have public water and sewer, and a bio-retention basin. There are to be internal sidewalks on one side of the street, and Mr. Dillon believes that there will be a sidewalk along Upper Silver Lake Road. He will confirm with the engineer that the sidewalk continues along Upper Silver Lake Road to the Township’s trail into Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Levine said that at the July meeting Mr. Wert has asked whether McGrath could build a small handicapped parking area to provide access to the trail leading to Silver Lake, with the cost of construction deducted from the fees.
Mr. Clancy expressed some concern about accepting in-kind services for small projects.
Mr. Davis suggested postponing a decision on accepting the in-kind services right now, as there is some concern about whether to continue to improve Silver Lake Park as well as concern about reduction of the amount of fees collected. He suggested discussing the need for handicapped parking at this location in September, when Mr. Wert would be in attendance.
Mrs. Sutton moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that a fee in lieu of open space be accepted for the Villas at Newtown. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Levine provided copies of the 1999 Comprehensive Plan for development of the Wiggins Tract for active recreation. He said that the property currently has flat grass fields in very good condition that would be suitable for three soccer fields. He has spoken to the owners of Restaurant 552 about using that parking lot to access the fields. At Township Manager Robert Pellegrino’s suggestion he has begun to investigate obtaining a temporary highway occupancy permit for a road opening for a parking field to be used until the developer of a project on Gaucks Lane makes the permanent opening. The Park and Rec department is hoping to line the fields for use in this fall’s soccer season. Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer Association has agreed to fund the temporary parking.
The Board discussed whether establishing these playing fields might interfere with progress on the Woll tract, if it is perceived that fields are not as urgently needed. It was noted that the Wiggins fields would be soccer fields. The Woll tract is to have baseball fields and a lighted soccer field. The Wiggins fields are not to be lighted.Mrs. Sutton moved to recommend approval of Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer’s development of temporary parking for a maximum of three soccer fields to be used this fall. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Levine provided copies of Mr. Wert’s written report for the Board’s review. The report notes an increase in revenue of 5.04%, or $16,785.
The members reviewed Mr. Wert’s summary of budgeted park projects that have not been undertaken because the projects have not been funded. A total of $424,000 was budgeted for park projects this year, including the natural resource inventory and deer fencing at Clark Nature Center, engineering for the Woll tract and field improvements for the baseball, softball and soccer fields in the Township parks.
Mr. Clancy asked whether these projects would be funded if recreational impact fees are collected, or whether these items would be carried over onto next year’s budget. Mr. Levine agreed to discuss this with Mr. Pellegrino and Mr. Wert. He did note that at the last Board of Supervisors meeting, Mr. Pellegrino suggested that requests for proposals for the Woll engineering be prepared, as fees would be forthcoming.
Mr. Levine reported that work has begun on the Roberts Ridge Park of Possibilities. The start of work had been delayed because of the storms and flooding earlier in the summer, but the work is expected to continue uninterrupted now, with and estimated completion date of September 22.
Mr. Levine reported that this year’s summer camps have been very successful, with an increase in participation in all age groups. This year 36 children participated in the extended day. Mr. Levine said that his own children have attended and are having a wonderful time every day. He noted that the cost of the Township program is thousands of dollars less than private camps.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Clancy reported that the First Fourth celebration was a tremendous success. Victoria Bowe has done a great job as chairman of the committee, and worked tirelessly throughout the planning and the day. Mr. Clancy and Mr. Davis commended her for her efforts, and expressed sincere thanks.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary