By: Maria Moore
This past Monday, May 10, about 100 residents gathered at Town Hall for a public forum to collect residents’ ideas of future uses for the town-owned property, Brodie Park South located across the way from Brodie Park on West Hill Road. This public forum was hosted by representatives from several groups with special interests in the future of the park; see our May 6 article The Future of Brodie Park South: Invitation To Give Your Input setting the stage for this forum. The forum was moderated by Dan Eddy, member of the Rec Commission which is spearheading a feasibility study of Brodie Park South in order to develop a long-term plan for the use of the park.
Dan started the meeting by saying that he had recently discovered that the whole of Brodie Park South is in the Nepaug Watershed District and that he will be looking into whether that has any effect on possible uses of the parcel. Dan said that some of the uses that have been proposed for the park include reestablishing the golf course, establishing play space for youth sports and locating a Senior Center there. He added that the study will probably take a year and there is no money available to immediately follow up on it.
Residents’ input at the meeting included the following:
- A resident suggested submitting the plan developed by the group to a town meeting for approval. Dan responded that the group would take that into consideration.
- A resident asked why the current Senior Center was no longer going to be used. Andy Riess, representative of the Seniors in the study group, said that the present center was too small and that it had no cooking facilities.
- A resident asked whether the study would be a collaborative effort of all the members of the group. Dan Eddy said it would be.
- A reporter from a neighboring town asked why there was a push to develop this property when the town was so protective of its open space. Â Dan answered that the property has the potential for many uses.
- A resident who is a member of the football group said that the group really needs a multi-purpose field.
- A resident asked about a design for a sports field that had been presented at a Planning and Zoning meeting. Dan responded that Youth Sports had gotten their own plan together for use of the meadow area.
- A resident suggested using 5-6 acres for a multipurpose athletic field.
- A resident commented that the town is looking for a master plan, and then P&Z could move forward on 5-6 plans at the same time. Dan said that was the philosophy: to come up with a package.
- Another resident commented that the different ideas would be mutually exclusive, to which Dan said that they would hopefully integrate all the ideas, and that the goal is not to have a piecemeal approach.
- A resident asked whether the group was going to look at integrating Brodie North into the plan, that it seemed the smart thing to do.
- The comment was made that there already was a plan in place for Brodie Park North.
- A resident then suggested that the study group should take a look at the plan that dated from when the property was first bought. She added that she understood the needs of today need to be met.
- A resident who had just joined the meeting said that he didn’t think the term “football stadium” was broad enough; he suggested they should refer to it as a “multipurpose field.”
Dan added context to the Youth Sports’ need for more room; he said that two-thirds of the student population plays sports and the fields at Brown’s Corner that were laid out for soccer have now been lined for football and baseball as well, something that can be very confusing to 2nd and 3rd grade players.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the Economic Development Commission (EDC) members joined the Public Input Forum. The EDC meeting was scheduled for the same evening and at the same time as the forum and as soon as the EDC meeting ended, about a half-dozen EDC members joined the forum.
Residents’ input continued as follows:
- A resident suggested exploiting the natural resources of the property, i.e. natural gas, something that he said he was not really in favor of but that might be worth considering.
- A resident wanted some ability to walk dogs on the property. He said that he had been told that the “football people” want all dogs banned, which was immediately denied by a “football person” who said that “football loves dogs.”
- Another resident said that an important aspect missing was the current use of the land, and that the property was a popular place for people to walk their dogs. A discussion followed on whether dogs were allowed on the property; some said there were signs prohibiting dogs on the property, and others said there were no signs. One resident said that when the original plan had been done, it had said no dogs. ”It did say ‘No dogs’ “she emphasized. Dan said that he was sure they could make accommodation for those types of uses.
- A resident emphasized that, in his view, the very important point was that the group was disregarding the current uses of the property. The answer came that that was why people were asked to that evening’s meeting.
- A resident said that whatever the use the park might be put to ~ tennis, bocci, etc. ~ that they use organic means of fertilizing the fields to protect the lake nearby.
- A resident asked that what’s already at Brodie Park South be respected, and specifically he asked whether the 2 1/2 to 3 miles of hiking trails would be affected and whether there would be a buffer zone. Dan answered that they don’t practice near the hiking trails and that everyone’s input is important to help generate a comprehensive plan and at that point the study group would have a similar type meeting to fine tune the plan.
- A resident commented he was in favor of multipurpose fields, that they want to bring the community together and that is an excellent way of doing that. He and another resident both said that the town had done an excellent job in doing that.
- The First Selectman, Dan Jerram said that he loves the hiking there and he mentioned a bike trail. He said there’ll be more meetings and that with 150 acres he thinks there’s enough land there for a piece for everybody.
- A resident agreed with the First Selectman and added that maybe this is an opportunity for the property to be named protected space.
- There was a suggestion of a nature trail that would go all around the property.
- A comment was made (by Dan Eddy?) that once they know what’s actually up at the property, when they know what’s in the report (that the Rec, Open Space and Conservation Commissions are paying to have done) they can consider the suggestions.
- A resident commented that the property was a very valuable asset and that rather than try to match the asset to the need, maybe they should look at trading the site for for something more suitable.
- Mary Kent, the Chairwoman of the Commission on Aging said that the seniors of the future will want to be a part of the plan, they will be hiking and biking, etc.
- A resident commented that if they look at the original plan for Brodie Park, it was to make the park the recreation center of the town. Â The resident said they should engage as many people as possible and that they should develop new language that would be a little more open to meet the needs of the future. The resident gave lacrosse as an example of a sport that would soon be coming.
- Bill Michaud, Chairman of the Open Space Commission and a member of the study group said that he doesn’t see a conflict between open space and the use of the property by townspeople. He said they should review the language of protection of open space, look at the input and see what fits and what doesn’t fit.
- A resident said that the town should look at buying the the Hurley building (on Greenwoods Road), that it is an historical building and with the flat field next to it, it could be used as a combination youth and senior center. Â Dan answered that they had already talked to the owner and that he doesn’t want to sell it.
- A resident said that not everyone has the same visual of the property and she suggested organizing a town outing or a town picnic so that the proponents of the different ideas could show where they would put their projects.
- A resident said that a 30-50 year plan for the property should include a school.
- A resident commented that having a master plan is pretty important at least from what we want to see as a whole. His concern is that as different things pop up they want a piece of the property and that at some point, we don’t want everything. A master plan would show a long and short-term plan.
- the same resident as above voiced his concern that the development of the property is in conflict with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCAD) which says that development should be focused on using existing infrastructure. He said we should be looking at the Antolini School property which has enough space for the fields. He said that when the Plan of Conservation was being written they had heard over and over “We want to preserve the rural character of the town.” He said that if we develop one part we will be changing the character of that area. The town supports open space, he said and this is currently unprotected open space. He emphasized that we should look at a different location for this (development) because it doesn’t fit with open space.
- The same resident as above said that it comes back to what to do with the space: the space is not unused but is currently being used. “It’s a jewel” he said and he suggested we continue using it as now. Another resident responded to the above by saying that he was discounting other jewels that the town has.
- A resident said we need to look at the components of the environment with a baseline study. Dan Eddy said that the study being done includes the current wetlands.
- A resident asked a question about Mr. Helt’s house (Mr. Helt had been the caretaker of the property while it was owned by the Brodie family before the town acquired it). He was told that Mr. Helt had lived in the house now known as Brodie House and he had moved across from the park when he had bought his own house.
- A resident said that she had heard older residents of the town say that when the town had acquired the property, Mr. Brodie had wanted a clause that none of the property could be sold off. The answer came that there was no restriction in the deed. Another resident said that Mr. Brodie had been surprised that it was not in there.
- Another resident said that the solution was to use existing infrastructure, that it may be less costly than developing new infrastructure.
After all residents had given their input, Dan Eddy said that he welcomed additional input from residents which they could email to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next step: The group is having a baseline study of the Brodie Park South property done by the Northwest Conservation District. The study, which is being paid for by the Rec commission, the Open Space Commission and the Conservation Commission, will provide general wetlands information, as well as information about the flora and fauna and the topography of the land ~ a snapshot of what the land currently holds. The study is due to be completed by May 17. We will provide updates as more information becomes available on the development of a future plan for Brodie Park South.