Updated: 6:54 p.m.
WESTFIELD, NJ — The town has hired a consultant to develop a plan for its local parks, a move that came with controversy as it will mean modifications to and delayed implementation of existing designs for a 106-acre park on Lamberts Mill Road.
On Tuesday, the Town Council hired the design firm Brandstetter Carroll Inc, of Lexington, Kentucky, to develop the parks and recreation plan for Westfield at a cost of $99,500. The plan for parks and fields will be coordinated with a new master plan, a guide for overall development in the town, officials said.
The council voted 6-2 with members Jo Ann Neylan and Frank Arena opposing the expenditure and arguing existing plans for Tamaques Park should be fast-tracked. Council members Mark LoGrippo, Linda Habgood, Michael Dardia, David Contract, Dawn Mackey and Doug Stokes approved hiring the design firm.
The prior plan for Tamaques Park included lighted turf fields, something residents in the fourth ward objected to because it would have reduced options for walking and other recreational activities there, officials said.
“In no way was this plan going to sail through,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Dawn Mackey. “When I hear shovels in the ground, this community was going to come out and defend the integrity of the park.”
The Kentucky-based design firm will work with community members to take input on a parks plan through online surveys, something that will reduce the public hearings needed to gather input, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said.
“One of the thing we were concerned about was not having public burnout,” Gildea said. "You don’t want the public going to too many meetings and giving their input on too many things.”
Pine Grove Avenue resident Lorraine DeRick told the council she was concerned about the delays in implementing plans for Tamaques Park, something that would have created more field space for local athletics.
With an estimated completion in the spring or fall of 2019, Derick said, the plan never came to fruition.
“How do you justify the money and time spent on something that was previously accomplished,” she said.
Derick described tight parking for parents during athletic games and football fields in shoddy shape.
“The flag football fields were awful this fall,” she said. “Parents were getting tickets on their cars constantly because of the parking situation.”
She was the only resident to object to the council’s approval at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mayor Shelley Brindle said she also has children, who play sports in the field, and she promised the new plan would account for the issues.
The prior plan, Brindle said, would have made the park inaccessible to some existing users.
“It was going to ruin it for those who use it for walking and pushing strollers. ... You were limiting the use of the park for those who use it for other things,” Brindle said.
Councilman Frank Arena, however, said the prior plan should have been implemented to benefit youth athletics.
“There are thousands of kids in town who could have potentially been using these fields in 2019 if this plan went through,” Arena said.
Councilwoman Joann Neylan objected to the cost of the council’s Tuesday approval when plans had already been drawn up.
“It’s redundant spending,” Neylan said. “And I just want to make sure the plan stays on the timeline that we had discussed.”
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