Rec Dept. reworks park design (4/16/09)

Schools still working on master plan for modular classrooms

April 16, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After being rebuffed by the Development Review Board in February, the town’s Recreation Department has redesigned plans for a proposed town park. The latest design of the recreation park, which would be located behind Allen Brook School, features improved parking and allegedly accommodates any changes that might occur with the school’s temporary classrooms.

Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan said the current plans should satisfy issues raised by the Development Review Board when it denied a pre-application permit for the park.

“I think it’s more accommodating,” Finnegan said.

The proposed park would include multi-purpose fields for soccer and lacrosse, baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts and picnic sites.

In February, members of the Development Review Board expressed concern over parking spaces attached to an access road along the fields. The board also said the project had to take into account the situation with the Allen Brook temporary classrooms. The school has six classrooms housed in modular units attached to the southern side of the building. A permit allowing the temporary classrooms expires in February, and the Development Review Board has said it will not approve the recreation park until the school presents a master plan to permanently incorporate the classroom space.

The school district is listed as a co-applicant on the project with the Recreation Department. Part of the park would be on school property.

New blueprints

Finnegan said the redesign should make it clear to the Development Review Board that the future of the temporary classrooms will not affect the park. There is space for a possible western expansion of the school, Finnegan said, as well as the possibility of moving classrooms to the north side of the building.

“Whatever might happen with the school in the coming decades will have zero impact on our design,” Finnegan wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “Our final plan is not dependent upon anything the school may or may not do.”

Allen Brook Principal John Terko confirmed the park would have no impact on school plans. He said the new park plans call for the basketball and tennis courts to be moved another 15 feet from the building to allow for a possible relocation of the temporary classrooms.

“That’s in case the School Board decides to move the modulars to the space,” Terko said.

To improve parking, the redesign includes more than 200 new spaces to the west of the school and to the south of the park. This number does not include the parking lot currently at Allen Brook, Finnegan said.

People would still have to walk a short distance to use any of the fields. Finnegan said the distance from the parking lot to the fields is similar to the layout at Williston Community Park.

“If we have any parking (within the park), then we’re losing facilities,” Finnegan said.

Other changes include an improved intersection between the Allen Brook access road and the future park access road. Also, much of the park’s access road will be gated and will only be available for handicap accessible parking and for transporting materials.

The new plans have scrapped a proposed bike path extension between the fields and the Isham Circle and Chamberlin Lane neighborhoods. This came in response to neighbor concerns, Finnegan said.

Finnegan said the Recreation Department will resubmit the application permit soon and he hopes to meet with the Development Review Board by June at the latest.

He doubts that work on the park would be able to start this summer, as he had previously hoped. Instead, Finnegan said any construction would probably start in the summer of 2010.

Modular classrooms

In preparing its master plan for Allen Brook, school officials are researching the most cost effective way to deal with the temporary classrooms — either building an addition to the school or making the classrooms a permanent structure. School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth has said she believes the Development Review Board should still consider another permit extension for the classrooms.

Terko met with building engineers on Monday to go over how to possibly make the temporary classrooms a permanent structure at Allen Brook. Terko said the engineers looked at the underside of the classrooms, how to better strengthen the floors within the rooms and how a new entrance might be designed between the classrooms and the main building.

After next week’s April vacation, Terko said he plans to meet again with engineers, as well as Allen Brook School’s architect, Jules Chatot of Banwell Architects in New Hampshire. Terko and Chatot have already discussed a new design for a possible addition to the school.

Terko said the work should be completed by late May or early June. School officials will then meet with the Development Review Board to present the master plan.