PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF May 4, 2011
Present: Chairman Andrew Levine, Vice Chairman Joel Grosso, Brian Bark, Kathy Kelly, Mark McMenamin, Buck O’Neill, Anne Porter and Susan Sutton, members.
Call to Order: Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Grosso moved to accept the minutes of April 6, 2011. Mr. Bark seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mr. Bark noted that the minutes reflect his concerns regarding the acceptance of fees in lieu of open space on land development projects.
Weglos Dental Office, 759 Newtown Yardley Road: Attorney Ed Murphy presented this plan for a 2200 square foot dental office with associated parking and stormwater management to be constructed on a 13000 square foot lot. Mr. Murphy reminded the Board that this property, located near the entrance to Newtown Swim Club, currently has an abandoned house, which is to be demolished. Zoning Hearing Board relief has been granted for the dental office use. The plan will be reviewed by the Planning Commission later this month.
Mrs. Sutton moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space for this plan. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 6-2, with Messrs. Bark and McMenamin voting nay.
Mr. Bark said that he has an ongoing concern that the Park and Recreation Board has been recommending a fee in lieu of the preservation of open space on the land development projects they have reviewed. He would like more emphasis placed on the preservation of open space. He understands that with this particular project, on a very small piece of property, there is no opportunity for the preservation of open space, but he would like to see more effort made to preserve what little open space remains in the Township.
Mr. Levine said that he did bring this up during his last report to the Board of Supervisors. He had explained to the Supervisors that in some municipalities, there is an option offer a transference of development rights.
Ms. Porter said that she has worked with this concept in Buckingham Township. Using this option, developers sometimes purchase a parcel of land or grant a conservation easement on a parcel instead of offering dedication of a portion of the land to the municipality.
Mr. Bark said that he has concerns that fees collected are not used for open space preservation. He asked whether the Park and Recreation Board had ever accepted open space instead of collecting a fee.
The members discussed a few times when open space was to have been accepted for projects that subsequently were not developed. The Orleans plan for the Goodnoe tracts, for example, involved access easements to open space at the rear of the property, adjacent to Hidden Lake. The Board had also recommended acceptance of open space for the Brandywine proposal for an office park near the Bypass. That open space was adjacent to Silver Lake Park. Mrs. Sutton said that the Board was open to accepting the open space when it would be accessible to residents or when it was adjacent to parks or other preserved open space. She also noted that the fees collected in lieu of dedication of open space are used for both development of active recreation and for preservation of open space land. Although the Township does not always accept the dedication of open space, on many projects, portions of the properties do remain open, but are privately owned and maintained, such as the open space common ground in developments.
Mr. Levine said that the Board of Supervisors responded positively to his suggestion to research the third option of transference of development rights. He suggested that Mr. Bark work with Ms. Porter on some ideas to be presented to the Planning Commission.
Veterans Park Military Dedication: Mr. Levine said that the American Legion is dedicating the park to the Veterans on Armed Forces Day, May 21, 2011. The Legion is planning a small ceremony with the Council Rock North HS Band and the raising of the service flags. The ceremony is to be contained entirely on the blacktop entrance area, as the Township has not yet accepted the park from Gilmore; there are a number of punch list items still to be resolved.
The recording secretary provided the Board members with copies of the draft invitation to the ceremony.
The Board agreed that the letter should be sent on Township letterhead, signed from the Board of Supervisors, the Park and Recreation Board, the American Legion and Ryan Varian of Scout Troop 99, who built the entrance wall and flag stands as his Eagle Scout project.
Field Usage Fees: Mr. Levine explained that he brought this Board’s recommendation for field maintenance by the sports leagues in place of usage fees to the Supervisors. It seemed that the Supervisors were completely unwilling to consider waiving any fees in the current tight budget. It was noted by the Supervisors that the Township only collected $15000 in fees, more than half from Rock Softball for tournaments. The Supervisors feel the cost maintenance of the parks far exceeds the fees collected. Some Supervisors felt that if the leagues feel that more than very basic maintenance or improvements are required they should be entirely the leagues’ responsibility.
Skate Park: Mr. Levine reported that American Ramp has approved work to be done by the Public Works Department to address some of the noise issues, this work would not void the warrantee. ARC has fixed the defective kick plates which had been contributing to the excessive noise. Baseline sound tests have been conducted. It is expected that the park will open in about one week.
Bob Lange of Lange Ski and Scuba on Sycamore Street said that his customers have been very disappointed that the park has remained closed for so long. He urged the Board to continue to pressure the Supervisors to address the issues and reopen the park as soon as possible.
Mr. Lange asked whether the Park and Recreation Board would work with him to offer scuba classes. He was referred to Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko.
Veterans Park: As had been previously reported, some outstanding punch list items are still to be addressed before the Township can accept dedication. Mr. McMenamin suggested split seeding the bare patches in the fields to fill in the grass.
The members discussed the lack of adequate topsoil for good quality fields. Mr. Levine said that topsoil was apparently sold to cover certain cost overruns.
The members discussed possibly approaching the Township with an offer from the various leagues to begin getting involved with field preparation and maintenance soon, to help insure good quality playing fields.
Senior Fitness: The members agreed that, while there seems to be community support for a fundraising effort for this project, they would prefer not to attempt to seek any donations until the skate park issues have been resolved.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
In Mrs. Pawlenko’s absence, the recording secretary reported that Mrs. Pawlenko is pleased that the camp registrations have been improving. Camp Beechtree is close to full. Only the teen camp is under-registered at this time.
The recording secretary reported that the summer brochure is to be mailed shortly. She provided members with an advance copy of the brochure for their review.
Mr. O’Neill said that he is opposed to the Supervisors’ decision to close the skate park without first discussing the decision with the Park and Recreation Board. It appears that preliminary results of noise testing show that that park is not any louder than the ambient noise of traffic on the Bypass.
Mr. Bark agreed that the Park and Recreation Board should have been included in discussions of this decision. He suggested that the Park and Recreation Board draft a letter to the Supervisors asking that this Board be consulted before decisions involving parks or recreation facilities are made.
Mr. Levine reported that he had recently participated in a meeting with Supervisor Mike Gallagher, Township Manager Joseph Czajkowski and Newtown Business and Professional Association (NBPA) President Mick Petrucci to discuss a perceived competition between the Township’s recreation programs and private businesses. Mr. Petrucci assured the Township that this is not the case. The NBPA is eager to continue its partnership with the Recreation Department; many local businesses have benefited by these partnerships.
Ms. Porter said that she has been very dissatisfied with the maintenance of Helen Randle Park. The fields have not been mowed this season; grass is too high for play. Volunteer Softball parents have had to mow the infields.
Mr. McMenamin confirmed the poor conditions. He also noted that the restrooms at Helen Randle are not being cleaned.
Mrs. Sutton reported that once again, this year, Arbor Day was a big success. She thanked the Board members who participated in the activities.
Ms. Sutton reported that Newtown Creek Coalition will sponsor a creek clean-up day on May 7, 2011 at 9:00 AM at the Centre Avenue Bridge.
Ms. Porter moved to adjourn at 9:00 PM. Mr. Back seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary