The following is an extract from an email newsletter I sent to my constituents prior to the Board of Commissioners' meeting on Monday May 9 concerning the lease of Memorial Field to Agnes Irwin School. I am adding it to the Patch blog in an effort to broaden the readership and to provide information for those of you who may not be following the issue closely.
Memorial Field Lease (Memorial Park is at King of Prussia and Matsonford Rds.) An issue being discussed by the Board of Commissioners is the Lease of Memorial Field to Agnes Irwin School for their after school use in return they will install a turf field and lights. Several Commissioners, and a few outspoken citizens, are against this Lease. Their reasons vary but I personally know that this is a great deal for the Township Taxpayers. If Radnor enters into this Lease, our usage of the formally problematic field will increase, our maintenance costs will be eliminated, public access will continue and the Township will continue to own the underlying asset. Below is a fuller discussion that will demonstrate to you the rationale for my intention to vote in favor of this Lease. I apologize for the length.
Background: AIS approached the Township last year with a proposal to lease the field (located at King of Prussia and Matsonford Rds) and to install a “Turf” field, lights and other amenities. They would use the field exclusively during the school year, weekdays from 3 PM to 6 PM, 4 Saturdays from 9 to 5 and 12 evening from 6 to 9. At all other times the field would be controlled by Radnor Township. In addition, AIS would be responsible for the maintenance of the field. The proposed term of the proposed lease is 15 years with 5 single year extensions and there will be requirements at the end of the lease regarding the state/condition of the field. Public access to the park will not be limited (except obviously for the playing fields when games or practices are taking place.)
If any of you have been to this facility you know that the condition is far from good. Due to mismanagement many years ago, road salt was stockpiled on the helipad that was formally located at the site and grass will not grow in that area. The Township has invested a great deal of money, time and effort in an attempt to improve the quality of the field. Currently the field has limited use. The Township Park Department indicates that we spend about $47,000 per year on maintenance. Further, estimates for the restoration of this field to a good quality condition are in excess of $100K and would require that we take the field out of service for two years to establish the grass.
Arguments that have been put forth against the potential Lease and my positions follow:
The Township will be losing Prime hours: It has been suggested that the proposed use by AIS ”after school” is using prime hours. I disagree. This field is a Radnor Township field, not a school district field. As such prime time is after 6 PM on weekdays and both days of the weekend.
There will be no place for UF to play: Members of the Ultimate Frisbee Club (a School activity) have lobbied the Commissioners because they currently use this field for their activities. Direct discussions with the School District, the High School Facilities Manager and the Athletic Director have resulted in a commitment that the UF team will be afforded space and will be in the mix with other High School sports programs. Indeed, the development of this field may result in increased playing opportunities for this team.
This is a Bad financial deal for the Township. I think that this is hardly the case. As a result of the proposed Lease the Township will actually have increased usage of this facility. In addition, the Township will not have to maintain the facility which will result in a saving to all taxpayers in the $30K to $45K range. And, and this is an important “and”, is the fact that we still own the asset and will have the field to use full time after the Lease expires. The current negotiations include the payment of an annual fee of $25,000. ( this figure does not include the expenses that will be incurred by the Lessee that includes the annual maintenance and amortization of the $1 million plus investment they will make, or the fact that they will being replacing the playing surface at least once during the lease term . My calculations put these costs at a cost of over a total of $125K each year.}
This is illegal, leasing the field will be a violation of the deed restrictions (Tri Party agreement): Many of you may remember the history associated with this Park. Originally the land on both sides of Matsonford Rd. was gifted to the Township by the owners of the Corporate Center. A few years later, the school district was looking for a location for an additional Elementary School and the concept that resulted in the current arrangement came to mind. In order to achieve this goal an “agreement” was reached between the Corporate Center, the School district and Radnor Township. The terms of this are embodied in the often referenced “Tri-Party Agreement” which constitutes deed restrictions upon the properties. Our solicitor has advised us that there are no issues with this agreement. We will have written confirmation of this from the other parties prior to any Lease being signed.
Leasing the field will deny public access. Again this is not true. The public will have full access to the park and the walking path regardless if AIS or Township teams are using the playing field for practice or a game. This is not different than current situation.
Traffic will be a problem. The Triparty agreement currently includes traffic (from the Radnor Elementary School). The field usage under this proposed lease will be after school, generally wrapping up around 6 PM which is after the bulk of the traffic from the Corporate Center. On game days there may be quite a few cars but hardly enough to significantly impact traffic and the remainder (practice days) automobiles will be minimal since the athletes will be bused to the field. Traffic in the evening period will be no greater than it has been in the recent past when the field was used by the Township sports programs. The Township will coordinate closely with AIS, RTSD, RCC and ABC High School to minimize the traffic issues.
The lights will disturb the neighbors. I think this is a gross overstatement. The lights that will be installed as a result of the Lease will be strictly controlled and will be extinguished at 9 PM. In addition, the draft Lease includes limitation of the lighting fixtures to be “no spill” lighting and they will be positioned to provide additional assurance that the lights do not affect the neighboring homes.
The Township has invested a lot of money in the facility and any Leasing organization should reimburse those costs. On the face this sounds reasonable. However, please consider that the funds were used to install the original field, parking lot and amenities over 10 years ago. So, if you accept this premise then some proration would be appropriate for both time and portion of expenses that are field related. I would argue that any funds specifically expended on the field should not be included since the lesee will be installing a new playing field. And the other improvements will remain. Actually this point is a good reason to enter in to the lease in that we currently have a lot of money tied up in a low use facility. The lease will result in increased use of the field and a better return on our investment.
The last point I will make is that Radnor Taxpayers are not losing out on some other better alternative. No one has come forward with a better plan or a better offer; we will own an improved asset and our children will be able to play on a quality playing surface. Assuming we could sell the property, which is doubtful based on laws affecting gifts, the value of the property will be strongly affected by the fact that the land must comply with the terms of the Triparty agreement (which is a deed restriction upon the land not the owner.) What is the imputed value of property which cannot be developed? The best use would actually be a Turf Field for rental and one cannot make “the numbers work” for an investment of that nature.