NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP

PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD

MINUTES OF SPECIAL MEETING OF MAY 2, 2007

The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, May 2, 2007, 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 Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director, and Philip Calabro, Township Supervisor.

Call to Order

Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00PM

Approval of Minutes

Mr. Davis moved to accept the minutes of March 7, 2007. Mr. Levine seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mrs. Kelly abstaining.

Mr. Davis moved to accept the minutes of the special meeting of April 25, 2007. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Clancy abstaining.

Public Comment

Resident Brian Bark, representing Council Rock Youth Lacrosse League, was in attendance to discuss field availability. Mr. Bark said that he has already given Mr. Wert statistics on the number of children, boys and girls, enrolled in the program. Many are Newtown residents; some are Upper Makefield residents. Mr. Wert had already indicated to him that there are no available fields for the Lacrosse League. The league is hoping to be given access to some rectangular fields in Newtown at some point in the future. The sport and the league are growing rapidly. They have been given use of a practice field in Brownsburg Park. All home games are played at Council Rock South.

Mr. Levine said that the Township currently has only one rectangular field, which is located behind Bed Bath and Beyond. That field had been damaged by overuse, and had to be retired for a season to be repaired. He noted that the Board has begun investigating the possibility of using the Wiggins tract for rectangular fields, but there are problems with available parking. The Woll tract will have a rectangular field when it is completed. Mr. Levine urged Mr. Bark and the Lacrosse League to attend Park and Recreation Board meetings to let the Township know about the league’s field needs. He also urged Mr. Bark to attend a forum of supervisor candidates on May 3, at which the Township’s sports organizations would question candidates on their position on parks, open space and athletic fields.

Park Development

Park Zoning

Following up on discussion at the special meeting of April 25, Mr. Levine provided members with copies of Article VII of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance, to help review zoning for athletic fields, particularly at the Woll tract, which is currently zoned POS for the large area of the park, and CM for the 10 acres close to Eagle Road. Under POS zoning, recreational facility is a use by right, however the impervious surface ratio is 8%. The current plan for the Woll tract would have about 23% impervious surface, on parking areas, paths, trails, snack bars, etc. The impervious surface would be increased if artificial turf were used, despite the artificial turf’s built in run-off control.

Mr. Levine spoke to Mr. Beckert about possible remedies to the current zoning for Woll, as well as for other Township owned parks. The Board could apply to the Zoning Hearing Board for relief, but it not a certainty that a variance would be granted. The other option is a change in zoning.

The Board reviewed other zoning districts in which recreational facility is a use by right, and compared the impervious surface maximum for each:

  • MS Municipal Service Districts – 60% impervious
  • EIR Educational, Institutional and Recreational Districts – 35%
  • POS Park and Open Space Districts – 8%

Mrs. Sutton said that the EIR zoning would provide enough impervious surface. She preferred to seek zoning change for what is needed without asking for MS, at 60%, which is much more than parks would, or should need. At this time, when the only plans for the Wiggins tract are for possible rectangular fields and a small parking area, she suggested that it not be included in the request.

Mr. Clancy agreed with Mrs. Sutton. He did not think that Wiggins would need more than 8%, even if a paved parking area was added. Mr. Davis also agreed.

Mr. Grosso moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisor change the current zoning of the Woll tract’s two parcels from POS and CM to EIR, Educational, Institutional and Recreational zoning. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

(Mr. Davis was excused at this point)

SKATE PARK LOCATIONS

The members reviewed the outline of previous discussion on possible skate park locations. Mr. Levine said that he had recently visited Helen Randle Park to better see whether the proposal to locate the skate park there would be a good idea. He noted that the two basketball courts are heavily used. He did not think that any area of the parking lot could be used for a skate park, because the parking lot is so busy, especially when baseball and softball games are being played.

Mr. O’Neill said that he had also visited Helen Randle Park, and felt that one court might not provide adequate room for the skate park equipment. He suggested expanding one of the courts to make a larger pad. This would be less expensive than building a complete pad, and would make the area close to the size proposed in the design provided by the equipment representative. He also suggested that the design be modified to fit into one expanded basketball court. This would give a large area that could remain as the skate park’s permanent location, and would reduce the overall cost of equipment.

Mr. Wert has some concern that enlarging the basketball area would bring the skate park closer to the adult softball outfield. He said that adults hit the ball well beyond the existing girls’ softball fencing.

Mr. Grosso said that he has two concerns about moving forward with the skate park at this time:

  1. Lower Makefield is investigating a skate park and Middletown is planning an expansion. It is very possible that a Newtown facility might not be utilized.
  2. This Board has repeatedly stated that its top priority is the Woll tract. Fast tracking a skate park facility would divert $150,000 from the Woll project.

The Board discussed fundraising for skate park facilities. There was a great deal of concern that fundraising efforts might not be successful because there is not an organization behind skaters the way other sports have organizational support. There is also difficulty in seeking corporate sponsorship if the Township has not already committed to a location and a plan.

Responding to Mr. Grosso’s concerns about neighboring municipalities’ skate parks, Mr. Levine noted that Lower Makefield is only in the early discussion phase of planning a possible skate park. Middletown is expanding because it is too crowded, and was probably not planned with adequate spacing between equipment.

Mr. Grosso suggested that each member be polled on location for a skate park:

  • Mr. Clancy – Municipal Complex. This is a facility that is active twenty-four hours a day, with emergency help nearby and built in supervision by Park and Rec and police personnel. He expressed a great deal of concern about safety, noting that unlike children involved in other sports which are supervised by parents and coaches, skateboarders are dropped off/picked up. Unless the Township provides an attendant, the skate park would be unsupervised.
  • Mr. O’Neill – Helen Randle Park. The pad is already partially built. It is the least expensive location. It could easily be moved to Woll or expanded if it is successful.
  • Mrs. Sutton – Helen Randle Park. She liked the idea of a smaller area for a trial park that could be moved/expanded if successful. She did have some concern about public comment asking for a “walking” location, but agreed that most children are driven everywhere.
  • Mrs. Kelly – Woll tract. She said that she is concerned that Woll will not be available for three or more years, so would support a temporary location at Helen Randle Park.
  • Mr. Grosso – Municipal Complex – He agreed with Mr. Clancy’s concerns about safety and supervision.
  • Mr. Levine – Helen Randle Park – Agreed with Mr. Clancy’s concerns about safety, but had concerns about the uncertainty of proposed construction at the municipal complex. A skate park could be in the way during the expansion of the complex.
  • Mr. Wert – Woll tract – He acknowledged that he does not have a vote on the Board, but expressed some concern about rushing to build a skate park. A skate park facility could be planned and built correctly with an adequate size for best use of the equipment. Once built, the Woll tract will be busy whenever the skate park would be in use.
  • Mr. Calabro – Woll Tract – He felt that a skate facility at the municipal complex would isolate skaters from other children. He noted that it could be planned and included in construction of Woll, and if unsuccessful, could be converted for use as another court for basketball or tennis. He was also concerned about removing a popular facility at Helen Randle.
After further discussion the Board agreed that the Board of Supervisors should be provided with the chart of possible locations and with the members’ poll. Mr. Levine said that he would attend a work session of the Board of Supervisors to get Supervisors’ feedback on the three locations, Woll, Helen Randle and municipal complex.

New Business

Mr. Wert reported that Council Rock Little League has requested adding a second batting cage and a second shed to Chandler Fields. The batting cage would be along side the existing batting cage and the shed would either be next to the existing shed, or the existing shed would be replaced with a larger shed at the same location. Both would be constructed with Little League funds. Concerns about the adjoining neighbor’s complaints have recently been addressed. A hedge of forsythia has been planted between the residential property and the baseball fields.

Mr. Levine moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the Council Rock Little League request to install a second batting cage and either an additional shed or replacement shed, provided the new shed is either the same size and style as the existing shed, or if the existing shed is replaced, the replacement is no larger than twice the size of the existing shed. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed 6-0.

Mr. Levine advised the Board that he is the attorney for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in certain real estate matters, including the eviction of the AARK Foundation from Archdiocesan property in Newtown Township. The AARK is currently seeking a new location, possibly in Warwick, but is also seeking a location within the Newtown area for a transfer station. Such a transfer station would have cages and fenced areas for wounded animals to be held for short periods, up to 24 hours, until the animals can be moved to the AARK. It is possible that the AARK might approach the Township for use of the Clark Nature Center. If this does come to the Park and Recreation Board, Mr. Levine said that he would not participate in any vote.

Park and Recreation Director’s Report

Mr. Wert reported that recreational programming revenue is up 9.2% , along with a slight increase in participation. Sumer camps are rapidly filling to capacity. The program directors are negotiating with Newtown Middle School to move the teen cam to that facility in order to open the program to the many children who have been put onto a waiting list. There has been a positive response to senior discount pricing. E-flyer use is increasing, with a 34.4% open rate. Woll tract engineering is proceeding; there has been some question about sun orientation on the softball fields. The Board agreed to ask the engineers for advice on possibly re-orienting the fields.

Mr. Wert reported that a contract has been signed with the Heritage Conservancy for the Clark Nature Center Natural Resource Management Plan. The Heritage Conservancy contract is for $8,500, substantially lower than what had been estimated by Pickering Corts and Summerson. He and Mr. Strover prepared an application to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for a planning grant for the project, and were very pleased to learn that they have been awarded $12,000 for “tree-vitalization”. The program with the Heritage Conservancy will be used by the Horticultural Society as a model for other municipalities for natural resource management.

The playground and pavilion at Roberts Ridge Park have been completed by Roofers Local Union #30. In total over 7000 volunteer hours were contributed for the park. A ceremony to thank volunteers is being planned.

Mrs. Sutton moved to adjourn at 9:30PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-0.

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary