Town Board considers next steps for Amenia Green

AMENIA — Seeking to understand more fully the next design phase along with fundraising strategies planned for the Amenia Green project, the Town Board held a special meeting on Thursday, May 30, inviting members of the Recreation Commission to join the conversation.

An important part of the process is the development of resolutions to be voted upon by the Town Board authorizing action regarding the project that envisions enhancing the green space around the Town Hall for recreational uses. A significant annual grant application deadline is two months off.

In response to the urgency, Town Attorney Ian Lindars will create resolutions to be considered by the Town Board at their next meeting on Thursday, June 6.

Landscape architect Jane Didona of Didona Associates, New Fairfield, Conn., has done extensive conceptual design work based on input from the Recreation committee and public hearings that invited residents to offer comments and amendments as she developed concept plans.

Now in preparation for making an application for grant funding this summer, the conceptual designs need to become more formalized, not yet construction drawings, but more detailed than the conceptual designs. These more detailed designs must be submitted as part of any grant application. A New York State Parks grant application is due by July 31, leading to the Recreation Commission’s urgent request for Town Board action.

Residents offering public comment at the meeting expressed concern about the number of large town improvement projects on the horizon, including plans for a new town garage, wastewater project, municipal water system upgrade, and improvements at Beekman Park.

Another resident asked that Lake Amenia Road be added to the Recreation Commission’s plans and the town’s downtown revitalization planning.

Town Supervisor Leo Blackman asked for a discussion of the phases involved in the Amenia Green project being undertaken through the Recreation Commission.

Councilman Paul Winters noted that a Master Plan for recreational enhancements was created two years ago. The first phase is to be the Amenia Green project.

The Town Board is being asked to accept a recent donation from the Amenia Wassaic Community Organization (AWCO) of $74,500, on behalf of the Recreation Commission.

The grant program through the New York State Parks Department and the application deadline of July 31 was discussed at length, including the requirement of the grant, if awarded, that would require a 25% match.

“What if you can’t raise the match,” Councilwoman Rosanna Hamm asked, adding her concerns about costs of maintenance of the park area.

A rising water table adjacent to the town hall was also a concern as the land grows increasingly wet.

“It’s not complicated. We need to raise the land,” Winters responded. Blackman questioned the wisdom of elevating the land before getting state approval.

About the AWCO donation, Attorney Lindars stressed that the Town Board needs to accept it and then provide the funds to the Recreation Commission.

Before the next Town Board meeting, Lindars said that he would create resolutions for vote by the board. If approved, the resolutions will approve the conceptual planning, authorize proceeding with the grant application, and then accept the AWCO donation.

Concerned about the NY State Parks application, Blackman said that an issue is whether the designated land must remain a park forever and the wisdom of turning the entire parcel over to recreational uses when it is adjacent to the commercial center of the town.

“I understand the intent, but it is not the only need the town has,” Blackman said. “If the whole property becomes a park in the eyes of the state,” Blackman added, “then the town is limited.” He said that there might be buildable spots on the land once the wet areas are identified.

“We need to remain flexible,” Blackman said. “The planned walking track might not be the best use of the land.”

Recreation Commission member Peter McCaffrey favored the walking track.

Blackman and Hamm felt that another public hearing to gather current residents’ input could be a useful step in approving or refining the design.

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