PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF MAY 7, 2008
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman, Joel Grosso, Vice Chairman, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Township Supervisor Robert Ciervo, Park and Recreation Director Bill Wert.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM
Approval of Minutes
Mrs. Sutton moved to accept the minutes of April 2, 2008. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Public Comment Resident Richard Doyle asked the Park and Recreation Board about whether Council Rock Youth Lacrosse would have access to any playing fields in Newtown. Currently, although there are a number of Newtown residents participating in the league, all games and practices take place in Northampton. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Doyle said that the league has both boys and girls teams, ranging in age from 3 rd to 8 th grades.
Mr. Levine explained that Board member Brian Bark, a Council Rock Lacrosse parent, has been working with Mr. Wert on this issue. Currently, 5 th grade boys Lacrosse teams are using the field behind Staples. This is the only Township owned rectangular field. He noted that the Township is currently working to possibly obtain use of fields within Tyler State Park for youth sports.
Mr. Wert said that he has recently worked with an adult flag football league to allow them the use of some grassy areas in Silver Lake Park. There is a possibility that this area, or other grassy areas that are not regulation fields might be available for practices.
Mr. Levine urged Mr. Doyle to participate in Park and Recreation Board meetings to provide information on the numbers of participants in Lacrosse, the number of Newtown residents involved, and the field needs. As the Woll tract is developed, all sports organizations representing Township residents will be given consideration in allocating the use of the fields.
Grainhouse Developers LLC, 11 Penns Trail: Mr. Levine advised the Board that, as these plans do not involve any change in footprint for an existing building, the Board would not review them.
RKD Builders Inc., Lots 54 & 55 170 Pheasant Run/Penns Trail : Richard Doyle was in attendance to review plans to develop a 1.9 acre lot in the LI – Light Industrial Zoning District. The plans show a 26,000 square foot building designed for office use. After accounting for the building and parking, the only available land is the buffering and lawn surrounding the property.
Mrs. Kelly moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space for this project. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 5-0
Dog Park Discussion: Mr. Levine reminded the Board members that Mr. Wert had provided information from a PRPS conference about dog parks. He also said that he had read in this morning’s Bucks County Courier Times that Falls Township had recently put a dog park out to bid. It might be a good idea to see what responses Falls gets for design and construction costs before this Board begins investigating dog parks.
Mrs. Kelly said that she had reviewed the PRPS information and done some additional research. She had some concerns about the Township becoming involved in such a project because of the expense of construction and maintenance, finding a suitable location and possible Township liability.
Resident Patrick Flanagan was in attendance to discuss bringing a dog park to the Township. He presented copies of a signed petition requesting a park as well as copies of letters of support for the idea.
Mrs. Sutton noted that the petition, generated on the internet by ipetition.com, does not list the residence of petitioners, and specifically says the park is to be located in Core Creek Park.
Mr. Levine said that it would be important to have petitions with addresses of petitioners, in order to gauge Township residents’ interest in such a project.
Mr. Flanagan explained that the signatures have been collected electronically through a link on his blog. Using the internet site www.i-petitons.com, he was only able to gather electronic signatures without resident information.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that Mr. Flanagan attempt to get signatures with addresses by placing petitions in pet stores or by knocking on doors in residential neighborhoods. He said that the Board of Supervisors would consider a project that had a good deal of interest among residents. He also noted that, even with residential interest, there are expenses to be considered. A location would have to be found; he was not sure whether there would be Board support for purchasing property for a park.
Mr. Flanagan said that a number of people he had spoken to suggested the library tract as a good location, or possibly Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Levine, Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Wert briefly discussed the requirements outlined in the PRPS presentation. The outline suggests fenced areas, separated for large and small dogs, and an area left closed to circulate use in order to prevent the park from becoming a dirt patch. A very large property would be needed for the park, and because of the high fencing required, would not look attractive if seen from the roads. Parking must be located close to the park, which would involve additional land and additional expense.
Mr. Levine asked Mr. Flanagan whether he had spoken to County officials about his original petition for a park in Core Creek Park. He suggested that Mr. Flanagan speak to the County Park and Recreation Board.
Resident Brian Caudill said that he would support the park being located in Newtown. He noted that the closest dog park is in Hamilton, New Jersey.
Mr. Levine again urged Mr. Flanagan to gather signatures with addresses from residents. The Park and Recreation Board would consider the suggestion and using the Falls Township proposal as a guide, attempt to estimate costs, and consider various locations. With resident interest the Park and Recreation Board would seek direction from the Board of Supervisors on whether to proceed with the project.
Reports of Subcommittees
Clark Nature Center: the Board agreed to dedicate its August meeting to a full review of the Heritage Conservancy Stewardship Plan.
Skate Park: Dr. Ciervo reported that the owner of the Newtown Shopping Center has agreed to give the Township the land adjacent to the rectangular field for a skate park. The owner said that he would prefer that the Township own the land and assume any possible liability; he will give the land provided there are no costs to him. Our solicitor is investigating any associated costs for subdivision and land transfer. The Township will also be responsible for land preparation, and purchase, installation and maintenance of the equipment. The land area is large enough for a skate park.
Mr. Levine suggested asking the interested children in the community to have input into the design. He said that the various ramp companies could present some designs for the kids to review.
Mr. Grosso said that the Board of Supervisors should give the Park and Recreation Board some indication of an amount of money they would budget for the park. The ramp companies could then provide some plans within that budget.
Woll Tract: Mr. Levine reported that the Board of Supervisors has agreed to go forward with phase one of the Woll tract, which will include the playing fields and some parking, with some parking held in reserve. At the suggestion of the Township Solicitor, requests for proposals will be written for bids with alternatives, such as inclusion of some trails, the pavilion and restrooms. Interior landscaping has been removed, with only the landscaping to buffer residential neighbors still in this phase. There was not Supervisors’ support for including the full build out in the municipal complex bond issue. Each sports league will be working with the Township Manager to demonstrate its ability to finance field lights. Work is being done to finalize the easement through the School District property. The Township will assume the detention basin belonging to St. Andrew’s Briar after it has been inspected.
The Board briefly discussed some possible encroachments by homeowners and by the winery on the Woll tract land.
Dr. Ciervo explained that the current Board is very reluctant to burden the residents with increased taxes by including the full build out of the park in its municipal expansion bond issue. The Board would prefer to build the park in phases using impact fees.
Mr. Levine said that a variance will be needed for the increased impervious surface. The plans have more than 9% impervious surface where 8% is the maximum permitted. The Board of Supervisors will support an application to the Zoning Hearing Board. Once the variance has been obtained and the Township Engineer has reviewed the revised plans, the plans will be put out to bid, and hopefully construction can begin in the fall.
Mr. Grosso suggested discussing asking the leagues to help with the construction of the pavilion/snack shed/storage shed.
Board of Supervisors
Board of Supervisors: Dr. Ciervo asked about some possible difficulties the Park and Recreation Department has been having with using Bucks County Community College facilities for programming, particularly tennis programming. He said that the Board of Supervisors has waived Park and Recreation fees for the college, and in return should be cooperative with the Department on programming.
Mr. Wert said that the college has been cooperative with the Department but sometimes cannot commit to continuous consecutive use of the tennis facilities because of its own athletic department needs. Other programs, including a swim program, have been scheduled at the college without difficulty.
Parks and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that the Spring/Summer brochure has been mailed, and response has been good. Revenue is up 3.1% and participation is up 10%. The use of senior pricing has increased slightly. The department continues to use e-flyers to update residents on programming. A new monthly e-calendar has been developed which links recipients directly to specific program information. The Department is working on updating its e-mailing list and making many additions. They are also investigating possibly using an on-line registration system.
Mr. Wert reported that the summer camp registration is going very well with a 5.9% increase in participation over last year. Teen camp now has a waiting list. The Department is working on a scholarship program with Council Rock School District. The camps will also continue their partnership with the District’s autistic support camp, which had been very successful last year.
Mr. Wert reported that the work on the backstops at Helen Randle Park has been more involved than was originally thought, and the Department is working to investigate possible configurations for the backstop to address some concerns.
Member Comments: Mrs. Sutton reported that the Arbor Day celebration was a great success. She thanked Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Grosso for their help and noted that Mike Clancy and former Board members John Davis and Bernie Bires also participated. During the events, as she was speaking to parents in attendance, there were a number of questions about park matters. She asked whether there are still plans for restrooms at Roberts Ridge Park.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board of Supervisors has concerns about the costs for bringing water and sewer connections to the park.
Mr. Wert said that there is an existing water line to a fire hydrant that the park could connect to and he has seen some literature about compost restrooms that do not need sewer connections. They have recently been installed in the Bronx Zoo. He will investigate this further and provide the Board with information.
Mrs. Sutton said that parents had also expressed interest in establishing a children’s garden at Roberts Ridge. Parent volunteers would do all of the work to establish and maintain the garden, however a water source would be needed. She asked about investigating costs to connect to the fire hydrant.
Mrs. Sutton said that many residents allow their dogs to play on the open fields near Roberts Ridge playground and have requested a trash receptacle for dog waste.
Mr. Wert said that there is a receptacle at the playground. Members were not in support of an additional receptacle, as it would add to the public works pick-up route.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Mr. Wert said that basketball nets have been replaced at Helen Randle Park. These nets are purchased by the case to periodically replace the nets as needed, however there had been a delay in receipt of the most recent order.
In response to Mr. Grosso’s question, Mr. Wert said that the playground at Helen Randle Park had failed a recent safety inspection and has been removed. Replacement equipment has been transferred from this year’s Park and Recreation budget.
Mr. Grosso moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary