New Providence Council Lays Out Parks Plan
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 • 12:06am
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The field at Hillview School could be the first project undertaken by the borough in its long-term effort to upgrade its playing fields and passive recreation sites.
Council Alan Lesnewich told the council Monday night that after a year’s work the recreation capital improvement committee has laid out a plan to address long-delayed maintenance and restructuring of the fields. The model is the 2006 recreation master plan.
Each project, he said, will be put before the public for comment and suggestions.
“The input will determine the plan, and the plan will determine the costs,” Lesnewich said.
Council President Michael Gennaro said the committee followed the direction of the council perfectly.
“We wanted to put this process in the hands of the council so we could get more public comment,” Gennaro said.
Hillview School was selected first because it is a smaller project facility, and the committee wants to get things underway, Lesnewich said.
The Hillview plans call for the field to be reshaped into a baseball facility, he said. The borough received a $25,000 matching grant from Union County that can be used to fund the changes. The plans call for a backstop, new fences and dugouts similar to what was done by the board of education at Roberts School.
The big need, Lesnewich said, is for a new rectangular turf field that can be utilized while work is being done on various other fields.
He said the committee feels such a field could be built at a reconfigured Oakwood Park.
There the committee envisions a new baseball field, including filling in the six- to seven-foot drop in the existing outfield, the removal of the existing basketball courts and small ponds to be replaced by new parking and a new basketball court that could be constructed with a three-to-four inch lip so it could be flooded in the winter for skating.
Lesnewich said the borough would have to find another place for the annual fishing derby, but with the ability to flood the courts, ice skating would be available.
Councilman Robert Robinson said that by using the flooded basketball courts, there would be more opportunity for skating.
Lesnewich said the reconfigured Oakwood Park would also feature large swathes of grass for walking, hiking and pets.
Overall, the committee planned reconfigurations and repairs at the borough recreation fields and included plans for passive recreation as well.
One of the first efforts could be the newly acquired open space on South Street adjacent to Veterans Park, Lesnewich said.
With the help of volunteers, some of the open space fund approved by voters in November could be used for maintenance of the open space plot, including the clearing of dead trees and brush and the addition of some trails, he said.
In other business, the council held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance changes that would allow the sale of four consumption liquor licenses in the borough.
The owners of the Murray Hill Inn presented the council with proposed changes in the hotel section of the ordinance that would bring the new rules into line with some current practices and clarified some language in the ordinance.
Bill Boyle, one of the owners, said the inn requested the changes to help it compete with larger hotels in the area.
Mayor J. Brooke Hern said while the council accepted the changes suggested by the inn’s ownership, it did not mean that the council was showing favoritism. From the beginning of the process, Hern said, the council planned to accept comments and suggestion from the public.
The first license will be awarded to the highest bidder, he said. No one, including the Murray Hill Inn, has yet submitted a bid because the ordinance is not finalized.
The changes include clarification that an establishment with a consumption liquor license can have one bar stool for every four restaurant seats and that a hotel can continue its normal operations after the sale of liquor has stopped. This was raised by the inn operators because currently room service dining is available after hours.
Other changes: restrooms can be adjacent within a reasonable distance of the restaurant; the sale of liquor in function rooms will be limited to guests of the hotel or attendees of the event and no liquor will be allowed to be brought into the hotel for any such event; and the hotel on certain holidays will be allowed to suspend the sale of liquor if they are not serving food.
Boyle explained that on some holidays the Murray Hill Inn shuts down its kitchen because there is no business. Going forward, he said, the hotel would like the option to add food service on those holidays and with it, liquor service, if business warrants.
He said they agree on the borough’s concept that there can be no liquor sales without food sales.
Another change would continue to allow the hotel to host charity events where liquor is served as long as they follow state rules on such events.
The council plans to hold a second public hearing on the ordinance at its June 25 meeting.