Special joint meeting with Town Board, Planning Board and Recreation Commission
March 9, 2016
The overall purpose of the meeting was to increase coordination between the three boards, two or three of which may be involved in various aspects of the same proposed project. During the free ranging discussion, reference was made to several past approvals that have resulted in ongoing problems as well as development projects currently under review.
For example, all three boards are involved in decisions regarding how residential development plans will satisfy their recreation requirement. Options include:
· Having the developer construct an on-site recreation facility, e.g., a playground or ball field
· Setting aside 10% of the site and transferring ownership to the town for the possible future construction of a recreation facility
· Paying a per lot fee that goes into a special Trust and Agency Fund that can be used only for open space acquisition or park improvements, but not ongoing park maintenance. For subdivisions the fee is $10,000/lot; for site plans (multi family developments), it’s $4,000/unit.
A second issue in need of coordination, primarily between the Town Board and the Planning Board, involves stormwater plans. For example, if the Planning Board is reviewing a plan that includes a stormwater detention pond, the issue becomes who will maintain the pond over time: the developer, a homeowner’s association or the town? Also, if the town will be responsible for the maintenance, does the site plan provide access to the pond?
Below is a summary of more general issues raised during the meeting. Except as noted, no specific follow up actions/decisions were taken.
Money for park improvements
Al Avitable, a member of the Recreation Commission, wanted to know when the Town Board will release the $1.5 million Spectra money to the Commission for use for park improvements. He said that the Commission went along with allowing Spectra to use Granite Knolls and Sylvan Glen parkland for the pipeline construction on the assumption that the money would go to them. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the $`1.5 million is in the General Fund and that the Town Board has not discussed what to do with the money. When Supervisor Grace said the town was under no legal obligation to use the money for park improvements, Mr. Avitable said that there was, at least, a “moral obligation.”
Supervisor Grace asked the Commission to come up with a priority list of its desired projects, including a budget, that could be used as a guide when the Planning Board is reviewing site plans that will have a recreation component. He advised Commission members of the competition for limited town funds.
Diana Quest, chair of the Recreation Commission, noted that while the town has received $117,000 from the state for the rehabilitation of the Route 202 fields, last year’s bid came in at $340,000. (Note the project is expected to be rebid later this year.) In response to her question whether the recreation fee could or should be increased, the supervisor said that they were in line with current land costs. Mr. Tegeder added that the $10,000/lot fee was increased only a few years ago from $5,000/lot.
As part of the discussion on the use of the funds generated by the recreation fee, it was generally agreed that because a private developer, unlike the town, was not subject to paying prevailing wages, the money in the Trust and Agency fund would go further if a private developer could construct the park improvement, even if it was at an off-site location of the town’s choosing. (See discussion below about the location of park improvements.)
Another benefit of coordination and having an available list of priority projects would be when the Planning Board becomes aware of a project that has free clean fill to be disposed of that might be suitable for a town location.
Supervisor Grace discussed the history of, and limitation of the $30 open space fee. (See Town Board, 2-24-2016.) He noted that if the $400,000 a year the fee raises could be used as a revenue for the General Fund and used for other purposes, it would have a 2% impact on the tax rate, i.e., it could lower the tax rate.
Types and location of park improvements
It was generally agreed that small neighborhood tot lots no longer made sense.
There were differing opinions as to where to locate larger projects, such as pickle ball courts. Supervisor Grace said he didn’t think it made sense to have new pickle ball courts built as part of the proposed Fieldstone Manor subdivision in Mohegan lake, a location he felt was isolated; he thought a better location would be Holland Sporting Club, a site he said he would like to see put to use. (He suggested that the Fieldstone Manor developer be allowed to build more houses on the land set aside for the courts and open space.) Another participant, however, felt that the proposed location, which was once used as a sports field and is next to a school parking lot was an ideal location for the proposed pickle ball courts.
Diana Quast, Rec Commission chairperson, advised the Town Board that her group would be ready to make a presentation to the Town Board, and public, sometime in May on a priority list of projects. She noted that plans are moving forward for the construction of an additional field at Hunterbrook and the renovation of the Route 202 fields. Also, instead of the previous plan to “flip” the Woodlands field, the Commission is now considering fencing off the field.
Planning Board member John Kincart noted that if open space is taken as part of the recreation requirement, the discussion should include whether the open space would be part of larger recreation plan, e.g., a trail network, or just left as open space that might invite inappropriate uses.
It was pointed that that the Parks Department is responsible for maintaining an inventory of isolated parcels that have been designated as “parkland” but which have no value as future park or recreation sites. The parcels range from Tall Timbers in Mohegan Lake to a single building lot off Hanover Road that was set aside as part of the subdivision approval process for a ball field even though, at the time, the Recreation Commission said it did not support a ball field on the site.
It was suggested that if these parcels could be sold off as part of a parkland alienation plan with the proceeds going to the Trust and Agency Fund to be used for park improvements. Brian Gray, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, said he has a list of parkland properties that fall into this category.
Richard Fon, chairman of the Planning Board, noted the benefits of having Councilman Bernard, the Town Board’s liaison to the Planning Board attend Planning Board meetings. It was suggested that although the Rec Commission receives copies of development plans that include a recreation component, it would be helpful if a member of the Commission also attended Planning Board meetings in order to facilitate the give and take dialogue. Mr. Tegeder noted that the developer shouldn’t be the “messenger,” being sent from board to board with his/her plan.