Review Board rejects permit for proposed park2/26/09

Wants other school projects completed first

Feb. 26, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Development Review Board denied a pre-application permit for a proposed recreation park that would be built adjacent to Allen Brook School.

In the 4-1 decision, issued at Tuesday night’s meeting, the board said it needed more details from the school administration in regards to its master plan for the school’s temporary classrooms. A permit allowing the classrooms expires next year.

Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan said Wednesday he was “very surprised” by the board’s decision. He said his department had planned to begin working on the fields by spring or summer, but now that the pre-application had been denied — and subsequently, the Act 250 environmental permitting process can’t go forward — plans are again uncertain.

“They’re not going to allow us to move until the school gets nailed down with what it’s doing,” Finnegan said.

The town’s Recreation Department and school system are listed as co-applicants for the project, since some of the park would be located on school property. Members of the town staff and recreation committee, including Finnegan and Public Works Director Neil Boyden, attended Tuesday’s meeting, along with the park’s engineer, Doug Henson of architectural firm Lamoureux-Dickinson. No school officials were present.

The school administration is putting together a master plan to decide what to do with Allen Brook’s modular classrooms; a temporary building permit for the trailers expires in February 2010. At a Development Review Board meeting in January, the School Board and administration said they could make the modular rooms a permanent structure, but the board questioned the best location. Also, school officials have hinted that funding for an expansion of Allen Brook School could come from federal stimulus money.

Development Review Board Chairman Kevin McDermott said at Tuesday’s meeting the school was already late in submitting its master plan, and he wanted the plan finalized before moving forward with other projects, including the park. He also said the classrooms were more important than new recreation fields at this time.

“It seems strange to approve the least important piece,” McDermott said. “It’s approving the icing on the cake before approving the cake, so to speak.”

District Principal Walter Nardelli said Wednesday the administration was working with architects on plans to either make the modular classrooms permanent or build a smaller extension than what is currently designed. He said he has not received an update about the stimulus money.

“We’re actually moving in two different directions to see what would be cost-effective,” Nardelli said, adding officials would return to the Development Review Board this summer with a more detailed master plan.

Finnegan said the park plans accommodate the possible movement of the Allen Brook trailers or the possibility of a school expansion. He said he didn’t fully understand the board’s decision, unless it wanted to send a message to the school.

“Whatever they (the school) come up with in their master plan, our plans aren’t going to change,” Finnegan said after the meeting.

Sorting out parking

Plans for the park include new recreation, baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields, as well as new basketball and tennis courts. A road, with limited parking spaces alongside it, would access the fields. Finnegan said the new fields were necessary to reduce strain on the recreation fields at Williston Community Park.

In denying the pre-application, the Development Review Board also expressed concern over parking.

“What are you guys doing with 20 spaces?” board member Scott Rieley asked. “You’ll need 200. You’re not even close.”

Henson and Boyden told the board there was ample parking at Allen Brook School and that conditions of the property’s use limit impervious surfaces such as pavement. People would be able to park at the school and walk to fields, they said.

Rieley and McDermott said the parking situation at the community park, adjacent to Williston Central School, should be seen as an example of too few spaces. McDermott said cars routinely park all over the grass near Williston Central School during busy times, and he could foresee the same thing happening at Allen Brook.

“I want to see this get done,” Rieley said. “We need it. But you’re setting this up to fail the way it’s drawn.”