MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville Township Planning Department presented three new Master Plan sections, called “elements,” to the Planning Board at a regular meeting on Nov. 12. The elements included the Circulation Plan, the Community Facilities Plan, and the Historic Preservation Plan. Click HERE to read Part I highlighting Historic Preservation. Part II of three articles will highlight the “Community Facilities” Plan Element.
“Community Facilities” Plan
The “Community Facilities” element included an extensive list of Montville Township buildings from all sections of the Township and including its schools, fire stations and public safety buildings. It is meant to “offer a blueprint for the upgrading of those facilities which are determined to be in need of upgrading and expansion.” The element includes both short-term and long-range improvement recommendations. Information for the recommendations was provided by administrators for each building, including Montville Township School District Administrator James Tevis, individual fire station chiefs and Recreation Department Director Maryann Witty.
Lazar Middle School was noted in the report to be overpopulated: the school has a student capacity of 897 students, but has had enrollment figures surpassing that number since 2002, the oldest figures provided in the report. “Student needs are currently being met by efficiently utilizing existing space and conducting four lunch periods per day instead of three. However, in order to maintain grade continuity and scheduling, three lunch periods are preferred,” according to the element.
In a statement released last week in response to this topic, the School District commented, “Robert R. Lazar Middle School is not overcrowded. Enrollment in the middle school has remained even since 2011 and enrollment across the district is showing a slight downward trend. The Montville Township Public School District has no plans to build a new school. Additionally, the district is not considering expanding Lazar, or any of the District's seven schools.”
The Planning Department found the Township Municipal Building to be in need of basic maintenance such as a new HVAC system, new paint and new carpeting.
When Montville Township Public Library Director Allan Kleiman was interviewed for the element, he stated that the footprint of the library is sufficient to meet the needs of the community, but improvements to the internal space are necessary “in order to better utilize the facility as a hub for information, technology and social engagement.” The library board hired a space planner in 2012 to “analyze the facility’s current and future space needs,” according to the element. These renovations are slated to be completed by March 2015. Further renovations and maintenance include interior paint, a new roof and replacement of HVAC units and carpeting.
The Montville Municipal Court Judge indicated in the report that the court is in need of locks on cabinet doors in the courtroom, shades for the entry door, improvements to the HVAC system to reduce temperature variations and the activation of the metal detection unit already purchased by the Township – including adding staff to operate it.
Recreation and Open Space
“At present, Montville Township contains approximately 2,766 acres of permanently protected open space, parks, and recreation areas,” according to the element, which is about 23 percent of its total acreage.
The planning staff utilized three methods for determining the need for recreation and open space property in the Township.
The first is called the Balanced Land Use Method. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recommends that towns should set aside three percent or more of their developed land for open space. Since about 23 percent of its acreage is open space, the Township well exceeds this standard.
The second method is the Population Ratio. It is based on the NRPA’s criteria for existing and projected population for the Township. NRPA’s guidelines suggest there should be “no less than ten acres of passive and active recreation spaces for every 1,000 residents.” With 21,528 residents, Montville should therefore have at least 215 acres, and at 2,766, the Township exceeds the guidelines.
The third method is the “Accessibility Method.” Since the first two methods don’t take into account accessibility and population density, “a more logical reliance on local experience, knowledge of the local population and recognition of the unique desires and character of the individual community” was used. According to the report, the planning staff found that while residents’ estimated needs for acreage in the form of community parks, regional park reserves and playgrounds were met or exceeded as recommended by NRPA, the residents’ needs for “mini-parks” was not. A mini-park is defined in the element as “active recreation facilities that serve a concentrated or limited population specific group such as toddlers or senior citizens.” They are about one acre or less in size, and are located within neighborhoods, and near to apartment complexes or housing for the elderly. According to NRPA guidelines, the Township should have between six and twelve acres of mini-parks, but has only John Street Park, which is less than an acre. The report states that “the NRPA describes mini-parks as an essential element contributing to the character and desirability of a community.” Lake Montowac falls under NRPA definitions as a “Special Use Area,” Eckhardt wrestling Barn is defined as a “neighborhood park/playground” and Pyramid Mountain County Park is defined as a “Regional Park Reserve.”
The NRPA also sets guidelines for various types of recreation facilities such as basketball courts and football fields, and using their guidelines combined with population data, the Township was found to be lacking in tennis courts and volleyball courts.
The Township Recreation Department staff was interviewed for the report, as well as other non-profit recreation organizations in Montville such as Montville Soccer Association, and the report states that scheduling of events and practices at municipal facilities is very difficult due to the high demand for the fields. Those interviewed stated that the Montville High School and Lazar Middle School’s gyms are dirty and contain torn basketball hoops, they need better sound-proofing, and the cheerleading teams do not have space in which to practice. The plan also mentioned the need for a community center with meeting rooms and a full-sized gym, water spigots at the baseball and softball fields, EMT personnel at home football games, space for the Montville Hockey Association to practice, air conditioning at Eckhardt wrestling barn, and outdoor ice skating at Dorsey Pond and the pond at the Community Park.
Further recommendations listed in the element include the evaluation of community facilities for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, the addition of bicycle racks at various facilities and the incorporation of “green” design strategies into current and new facilities. The report listed lots on Abbott Road, South Lane,and Stephen Drive as possible sites the school district could consider for the building of a school to ease the overcrowding at the middle school. The report also recommended that the Recreation Department set up an “online activities scheduler” to aid in the scheduling of various activities at Township facilities. A list of available land parcels was also included for the Township to consider purchasing for use as mini-parks, and included addresses on Two Bridges Road in Towaco, Taylortown Road in Montville and Woodmont Road in Pine Brook.