PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 6, 2006
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, September 6, 2006, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice Chairman; Michael Clancy, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director; Philip Calabro, Township Supervisor and Russell G. Strover, Township Naturalist.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of June 7, 2006. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of August 2, 2006. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
First Evergreen Preliminary Plan
Dan Cohen of First Evergreen was in attendance to review First Evergreen’s plans to build a 120,000 square foot office building on their 6-acre property at 826 Newtown Yardley Road. He said that his firm already owns the other office building at this location. The plan is to erect a new building, not attached to the existing structure. It is to be used for medical offices. He said that he had considered offering open space for dedication, however, the engineers on the project recommended requesting to pay a fee in lieu of dedication.Mr. Grosso moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space from First Evergreen for a building at 826 Newtown -Yardley Road.
Mr. Levine reported that the park development subcommittee met with residents and sports association representatives to discuss the possible use of the Wiggins tract for soccer. Neighbors have expressed some concern about use of the property for a few soccer fields for daytime use. The Board of Supervisors has approved the use of Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer Association funds to obtain a highway occupancy permit to install a small gravel parking pad. Restaurant 552 has also been involved in some discussion of the possible use of its parking. Orleans Homebuilders has agreed to create the entrance to the fields as part of a highway occupancy permit to improve Gaucks Lane for a development. It is possible that Orleans could be persuaded to do this work sooner than planned.
Mr. Grosso and Mr. Wert expressed some concern about using private club funds for improvements to public parks. They did not want to create an environment in which certain clubs would feel entitled to exclusive use of the fields.
Mr. Levine said that during the meeting the Supervisors discussed using open areas at Roberts Ridge or Silver Lake parks for fields, but later agreed that these locations would require too much improvement to create suitable playing surfaces.
Mr. Levine said that as a result of the discussions about the Wiggins Tract, Supervisors’ Chairman Ann Goren requested a timeline for development of the Woll Tract. Mr. Wert and Township Manager Bob Pellegrino are drafting a request for proposals for engineering. Mr. Pellegrino had indicated that the Supervisors had voted to earmark the RCN settlement money to development of the Woll tract. Using this money, engineering could begin within a few months.
Mr. Wert reported that he has had conversations with the Council Rock School High School Athletic Director about the damage to the field behind Staples. Because the damage is not as severe as originally thought, the field could possibly be used for some Upper Makefield/Newtown Travel Soccer home games. The High School will possibly use the field for home games only, not for practice. Mr. Wert said that although the High School and the Soccer Association had offered to repair the damage, our public works department did the repairs, so as not to create any expectation of exclusivity. He said that because there is a tremendous need for additional playing fields, he is looking at possibly using some outfield areas at Helen Randle Park, if they are not being used by fall softball programs.
Mr. Calabro expressed some concern about the use of Newtown Township fields by Upper Makefield sports organizations, and about Upper Makefield’s open space available for park development.
Mr. Levine briefly reviewed the allocation of Upper Makefield’s playing fields. He said that the soccer league is comprised of 1200 children, of which 800 are Newtown residents. A few of Upper Makefield’s soccer fields in Washington Crossing Park are not available this season. Completion of fields at Brownsburg Park was delayed. Upper Makefield’s Park and Recreation Board has expressed interest in holding some joint meetings to discuss playing fields. Mr. Levine said that he would also like to discuss regional field needs with the County Park and Recreation Board.
Mr. Grosso expressed some concern about the Board losing its focus on development of the Woll tract. He asked whether it would be possible to move any faster on the engineering of the Woll Tract.
The Board discussed possibly requesting the Township Engineer to prepare an estimate of costs for engineering of the tract. Remington & Vernick does have some park experience. Members agreed that the Board of Supervisors should be asked to vote on either issuing an RFP for engineering or asking Remington & Vernick to prepare a budget to begin the engineering, by September 30 of this year, to move the project along.
Mr. Wert said that in preparing the RFP, a few outstanding questions must be resolved, including whether to phase in the park, whether a traffic study should be conducted as part of the proposal, and whether resolution of certain zoning issues should be included in the proposal.
Members agreed that the engineering plans should be drawn for the park to be constructed in phases. If funds become available, it could be phased in more quickly. The Board had agreed to a traffic study when the concept plan was presented to the Planning Commission, so members agreed it should be done as part of this proposal.
The members discussed the zoning issues. The tract is located partially in the CM and partially in the POS districts. POS has a lower permitted impervious surface ratio, and unless the parcel is re-zoned, a variance could possibly be needed. Mr. Levine suggested that this issue could be resolved separately from the RFP.
Mr. Levine said that he would include this discussion and a request to either authorize Remington & Vernick to prepare an engineering budget or to advertise an RFP in his report to the Board of Supervisors. He said that he hoped a vote would be taken one way or the other during the September meetings.
Mr. O’Neill reported that he has continued to meet with the high school students who have formed a sub-committee to plan a skate park. They have been gathering information about equipment, but do not yet have an appropriate location.
The Board discussed using Carl Sedia Park, as it is within walking distance to the high school and middle school. There was some concern about neighbors’ objections.
Mr. Grosso said that he favors including the skate park at the Woll tract. The park would then have activities for children who do not participate in team sports. It would be a busy, easily monitored location, and it would not be a disturbance to neighbors, if located within the park.
Mrs. Sutton agreed that this would make Woll tract a very welcoming environment for many children.
The Board discussed the time involved in bringing a skate park to the Woll tract. Mr. Grosso noted that choosing another location would also take time, and if Woll is phased in, the skate park could be part of the first phase.The Board reviewed costs associated with building and maintaining a skate park. Mr. Levine said that the skate park in Middletown was funded by private donation. Middletown requires the purchase of tickets or passes to use its park. The revenue then covers the cost of staffing. Liability waivers are required before tickets or passes are issued.
Board of Supervisors
Mr. Calabro asked whether there is a trail sub-committee within the Park and Recreation Board.
Mr. Wert said that there had been a separate trail committee, which has disbanded. Now trails, as linear parks, are within the park development sub-committee’s purview.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that the Township camps were a success, with increased revenue and participation. All camps are completely self-sufficient. Over three hundred children participated in camps for pre-school through middle school age children.
The department has seen an over all increase in revenue of 3.8%, with a slight decrease in participation, primarily in youth sport programs. The fall brochure, consisting of 32 pages, and 417 program sessions, is to be mailed next week.
Work continues on Roberts Ridge Park of Possibilities. The playground is expected to re-open in mid-October. Block Grants have been awarded to re-side and paint the barn at the Clark Nature Center. A fountain, donated by Commerce Bank, has been installed by the Public Works Department at Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Strover reported that a number of scout and high school links volunteers have placed the wood chips that were removed from Roberts Ridge along Clark Nature Center trails. The Board discussed asking the Board of Supervisors to recognize the many volunteers who have worked at the Clark Nature Center and other Township parks.
Mr. Wert shared a sample Park and Recreation e-newsletter he created. This e-letter was created through a private company, which works with PRPS. He is considering developing an e-mailing list for the Park and Recreation Department, to supplement, and eventually replace, paper flyers sent through the schools or mailed to past program participants. He noted that a number of neighboring school districts have begun using e-mail only to communicate with students and parents. St. Andrew’s School has begun requesting e-mail flyers instead of paper copies, for distribution to students. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Wert said that no e-mailing lists would be sold or shared.
The Board congratulated Mr. Wert on being elected to the Bucks County Open Space Task Force.
Mr. Levine said that his wife expects to join the parent board of Upper Makefield/Newtown Soccer Association. He will not participate in future discussion involving the club.
The Board thanked Mr. Calabro for his consistent attendance at meetings. His support and guidance is greatly appreciated.Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary