Friday, June 29, 2007

Recreation and Community Center Planning

My thanks to Dryden Democrats who met here Wednesday night. Special appreciation for their courtesy in not whining about the heat or humidity (or, frankly, the scent left by the stray cat before I got home.) This house, tho' it is not air conditioned, is only uncomfortably warm two or three days a year. Wednesday was one of them. The logs, thanks to thermal mass, take a long time to heat up. Tuesday, even tho' the outdoor temperature was 94, the house stayed at 72. But temperatures in the 90s Wednesday continued to warm the logs and by 7:30, it was awfully warm in the house.

Despite whatever discomfort people were feeling from the heat, we had a lively discussion of the split vote at Wednesday night's Town Board meeting - only the second non-unanimous vote in the year and a half I've been on the board. (The other was over the color of the tourism brochure - purple prevailed over green.)

This one is more serious. It was a follow-up on the lengthy discussion at the June 14 meeting (minutes will appear soon at minutes) regarding a proposed grant application for "parkland development." In May the Board approved $3,200 for Thoma Consulting to work with Environmental Planner Dan Kwasnowski on the application due June 30. I admit I misunderstood the purpose of the application. I don't know how much of the misunderstand is my responsibility and how much may be attributed to Dan's May presentation. But I thought we were still at a very early planning stage and that the planning for the site adjacent to the town hall would be part of a townwide planning process.

From the May meeting minutes:
Thoma Development has informed us there is a state grant opportunity for park land development. This is very competitive and the application is due June 29. Thoma's proposal is for $3,200. D Kwasnowski said if the municipality is already willing to spend some money on this, that works in our favor and is an instant match. We have the natural and historical features
that the State is looking for. The maximum award is $500,000. The need for parkland is well outlined in our Comprehensive Plan. We've done surveys and know what we need.
The unanimous resolution of the Board at the May meeting.
RESOLVED, that this Town Board hereby authorizes the Town Supervisor to accept the proposal from Thoma Development to prepare a grant application for park land at a cost not to exceed $3,200.

At the June 14 meeting the town engineer described preliminary work he was asked to do assessing grading and drainage needed for the site behind the town hall. This suggests a commitment to a certain style of development. While there's been a good deal of chatter about recreation and ball fields on this site, the planning process is pretty firmly stalled about an inch from the very beginning.

In late winter 2006 we held a meeting, including several representatives from the public, at which many interesting ideas were discussed. Dan developed a "Proposed process for preparing and Conceptual Use Map and Plan." [The caps are from Dan's report - should that have been a red flag?] The six month time frame seemed unrealistically short. Even so, phase I, planned for March and April 2006, included development of a base map and photos, establishment of a Town Parkland Advisory Board and hosting community workshops. Dan has developed a sketchy map but the other suggestions have not been acted upon - not to mention phases II, III, IV and V of the proposal. In other words, we're stalled halfway through the first point of the first phase of a five phase process.

And townwide planning for recreation is, if possible, even further behind than planning for the town hall site. The Open Space Inventory completed in 2003 includes a map of "Managed Open Space Assets." A Recreational Needs Assessment was undertaken by a SUNY Cortland class and their professor in 2005 (prior to the acquisition of the town hall site) and completed in June 2006. Last year Thoma made a modest proposal to complete a townwide recreation plan. We included funding for it in the 2007 budget. In May Councilpersons Makar and Stelick, speaking as the Board Recreation Committee, asked Dan to speak with Thoma about proceeding with that proposal. But it hasn't begun yet.

I know that Supervisor Trumbull and Councilpersons Christofferson and Stelick want to develop recreational facilities on the town's property in the Village. And I'm not particularly opposed to the idea. But also at Wednesday's meeting we were approving $25,000 change orders for the town hall construction caused by our rushing through one phase of the town hall planning. And suddenly we're talking about engineering for a site we've barely planned for at all.

In fact, the more I read the May minutes, the hotter I get. When Helen Mandeville, from southwest Dryden said she wondered whether the board was aware of the issues in her neighborhood and she would like to help start some informational meetings, did we not hear her? When Councilperson Stelick said he understands there is a divide between the east and west sides of town but it is going to take time to heal it, I want to remind him it's going to take more than time. It's going to take a good deal of effort and maybe a little money. When Councilperson Makar described requests from community groups to host town board meetings in locations other than the town hall and Supervisor Trumbull suggested instead that two board members every few months could go to different communities and see what the issues are, I imagine I know which two board members he's thinking of (hint: they don't live on the east side of town.)

And when Councilperson Christofferson said, at the June 27 meeting, that we need to develop the town hall site 'cause "we don't have a community center on that side of town," I should have reminded him, as Martha Robertson reminded me, that the reason Ellis Hollow, Etna, Bethel Grove and Varna have community centers is that neighbors got together and raised some money and put in countless volunteer hours to create them.

Okay. This is verging on a rant. I'm going to go work in the garden.


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