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North Castle Daily News

Wampus Brook Park South Armonk
Park Plans Go Back to the Drawing Board

September 22, 2016
A year ago, the North Castle Town Board approved plans to develop an extension of Wampus Brook Park. At the “gateway“ to the community at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue, there has been a barren three-acre lot since the clean-up of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that destroyed many of the tall pine trees in the area.

On September 14 at the Town Board meeting, Town Administrator Joan Goldberg said that the contractor who was chosen to construct Wampus Brook Park South, A Team Contracting Corporation, was unable to secure a bond. Contractors working for municipalities are required to secure bonds for labor, performance and insurance. Therefore, the latest proposed park project was scrapped at that Town Board meeting.

Even though the contractor’s bid came with a bond which covers the Town’s cost in the difference of the amount between the accepted contractor’s bid and the next higher bid, the Town Board is, unfortunately, clearly not in a position to make a financial commitment near the accepted bid of $558,500 to build the park.

At the July 13 Town Board meeting, the Town Board awarded the bid of $558,500, and under the advice of Town Attorney Roland Baroni, with direction to Goldberg, in conjunction with the Town Board liaison, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) and North Castle’s engineer, to reduce--by change order—the limit of the overall cost of the park construction to a maximum budget of $325,000.

Town board members requested that the PRAB meet with the Town Engineer to determine ways to reduce the costs. The Town received bids from contractors ranging from $500,000 to over $1 million. The recommended bid brought the cost to over $600,000 with $50,000 worth of engineering costs already paid.

Eventually, the construction of the new park will be fully funded from North Castle’s recreation subdivision fees. The $558,500 bid is in excess of the recreation fund balance of just over $400,000, or $176,000 short of the funds available.

Goldberg identified the accounting of $211,000 in the recreation subdivision fund that falls under the Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC) guidelines. The parkland fund may only be used to acquire, construct, rehabilitate or expand existing park or recreational facilities to meet the needs generated by new subdivisions, that are located nearby, she said. The recreation subdivision fees may not be paid toward the operations of existing parks.

$211,000 of the parkland trust fund were identified by Goldberg from these developments over the past 12 years:
$148,000 from The Bristal;
$23,000 from the lumberyard;
$20,000 from Cox Avenue; and
$20,000 from Byram Ridge subdivision.

The remainder of the recreation fees, with a balance of over $400,000, is from the undisclosed specific amounts for the recreation fees from the hamlet of Armonk’s subdivided developments of Whippoorwill Ridge, Whippoorwill Hills, Armonk Square, Cider Mill, and the affordable units on Old Route 22.

If the project’s cost were to have gone forward at the accepted bid price, any excess costs beyond the available funds would need to be borrowed. The future amount of money in the recreation fund depends upon subdivision fees expected to be collected from the future development of Main Street projects near Old Mount Kisco Road and from the expanded lumberyard project. The recreation fees from these subdivisions are anticipated to possibly cover the financial shortfall for building the park. However, these fees won’t be collected until just prior to the signing of the site plan or subdivision plans.  

Recreation subdivision fees have been collected from much of the Town’s multi-family development for 12 years. A recreation fee of $3,000 per unit has been paid to North Castle for multi-family development, with the exception of assisted-living units and middle-income units, which has been reduced to payments of $1,000 per unit.

Some of the line-item costs reconsidered to lower the $600,000 bid were discussed for future installation:
$120,000 for a 20-spaced parking lot;
$  80,000 for stream stabilization;
$  38,000 for park benches;
$    2,250 for a bike rack;
$  75,000 for an irrigation system;
$  60,000 for grass pavers for large trucks to drive over to maintain the sewer pump station on the property, near Route 22.

The Town Board would like the PRAB to consider private donations for the park benches coming from “in memoriam” dedications.    

When the most recent park design was chosen, the plan was for a quiet park area with a babbling brook with check dams built in the rock formations, which slow erosion and provide aesthetic and acoustic sounds, and a walking path with benches in the shade, next to concrete pads for easy use of wheelchairs or strollers.

'We do want a park there, and we will have some kind of park there," concluded Michael Schiliro, North Castle's Town Supervisor

But the cost to build the park needs to be reviewed and additional plans will be considered to lower the budget.

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Parks and Recreation Board Hears From Public on the New Wampus Park South

Updated February 7, 2014
North Castle’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board held a meeting on Tuesday, February 4 at the Hergenhan Center, to hear comments from the public on the planning of the new Wampus Brook Park South, located at the gateway to downtown Armonk, between Bedford Road and Route 22, along Maple Avenue. About three dozen people attended the meeting, including the advisory board, Director of Planning Adam Kaufman, Recreation Supervisor Matt Trainor, Town Councilman Steve D'Angelo, and Town Administrator Joan Goldberg.

The Advisory Task Board has received opinions from various town boards, including the Open Space Committee and the Conservation Board, on four different options for the one-acre park. The Chairman of the Advisory Board, Joe DiMauro, says the board “will use the community’s input to craft its recommendations to the Town Board, which will ultimately decide what plan to approve.” In addition to the Town Board’s review, the process will be vetted with the Planning Board and the Conservation Board.

Director of Planning Adam Kaufman presented an overview of the four different park plans that could be funded by North Castle’s Subdivision Recreation Fund; the fund is an accumulation of hundreds of thousands of dollars from property owners who have paid a fee to subdivide their property when they do not intend to build a park on that subdivision. The recreation subdivision rate is $10,000 per lot. The Subdivision Fund balance was almost $400,000 in August 2013, but at the meeting, the Advisory Board acknowledged that it was a uncertain what the fund’s current balance is. This fund is restricted and cannot be used for general municipal purposes; the fund must be used for creating recreation amenities in town, says Kaufman. The cost of park maintenance is included in the Parks' Department budget.

Resident Norma Hill urged the Advisory Board to clean up Wampus Park North before embarking on the plan to build Wampus Park South.

There are maintenance issues with the condition of the park’s walkways, gazebo, trees, grass, fence, stream, and the island in the pond. Hill’s views were endorsed by resident Ed Woodyard who suggested that while the board reassesses the planting needs of Wampus Park North they also incorporate the same items into the design of Wampus Park South, so that the two parks can have a consistency and unity to their overall planning.   

Wampus Brook Park South today includes the Wampus River and the remaining vegetation on the property. Last year’s Super Storm Sandy destroyed many of the pine trees in the park. Subsequently, the park was leveled, with few remaining trees. The cost of the clearing was mainly covered by the Federal Emergency Management Aid (FEMA).

The main feature of each of the Wampus Brook Park South plans presented was an open space grass multi-use area. All of the four options include a sidewalk on Bedford Road that has already been approved to go to bid by the Town Board to improve downtown Armonk’s sidewalks. The cost of the sidewalk will be covered by a grant from New York State. The park will include a walking path, most likely paved to encourage stroller use and cycling, and shade trees scattered throughout the park along with flowering trees along Bedford Road, and an evergreen screening buffer along Route 22. A further option to consider is a shelter.

The different plans include some parking spaces for access to the park. The kind of surface, whether asphalt or gravel, has not been decided yet. But if the park were to remain open in the winter, the parking lot would need to be plowed, and therefore asphalt makes sense.

Ms. Hill asked, “Do you have any idea at all what your plan is [for the number of parking spots]?” Director of Planning Kaufman said that there isn't a specific number in mind, but that the number will be a balance between the park versus the parking area.

Kaufman acknowledged that there would somewhere between 20 and 30 spots, with the location yet to be determined. “That’s a lot of parking,” said Hill. “You then have to look at a parking lot, not a park.” Kaufman said that the parking lot will not only be for Wampus Brook Park South, it would also be making up for the shortage of parking for Wampus Brook Park North; this is why he would advocate as many as 30 parking spots. However, Kaufman did say that cost may dictate parking options, including parallel parking along Bedford Road, a small parking area located in the front of the park off Bedford Road, a lot in the back of the park along Route 22 near the existing sewer pump station, and a parking lot off an entry adjacent to Elide Plaza. The ability to share Elide Plaza’s access road to enter and exit the park’s parking lot would reduce the amount of additional pavement.
 
“This would have to be an actual agreement between the Town and the Elide Plaza property owner that would go in perpetuity with the property,” said Kaufman. If the board chooses a parking lot next to the Elide Plaza, even if the Elide Plaza property owners are not in agreement, there is a contingency plan to have an access road on the town’s property that runs next to Elide Plaza road way. Based on discussions with the Elide Plaza’s owners, Kaufman said that the property owner was amenable to having future discussions with the town about providing this connection.

Armonk resident Ann Dantzig said she favors a simple park. Dantzig also said that the Elide Plaza’s commercial parking spaces may be infringed on if the Elide Plaza’s parking spaces are used as public parking spaces, especially during public events. But people have been parking in Elide Plaza for town events such as the Fol De Rol and Frosty Day Parade for years. The alternative of sharing the entry way with Elide Plaza would also allow for more trees to be planted along Bedford Road. The option of locating a parking area in the rear presented a concern to the North Castle Police Department over safety issues in a parking lot that is not easily visible at night, but lights could be incorporated into the design, or the lot but could be closed to vehicles after dark. 

Welcoming the community's opinions allows the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to incorporate some of these opinions into its final plan. This is in contrast to last year, when the prior Town Board presented plans for a dog park intended for the same area, but only asked for community input after a plan was already proposed. The dog park plan met a lot of resistance, however, and eventually the plan was scratched, as were plans to resuscitate it.   

In all of the options, the plan is to align the walking paths between Wampus Brook Park North and Wampus Brook Park South that are divided by Bedford Road. This will require a reconfiguration of the entry path to the north side of Wampus Park North near Bedford Road. A crosswalk further east on Bedford Road will provide a safer connection between the two sections of the park. The walking path between the two parks will be a short distance from the traffic light in order to avoid crossing at the busy intersection. The town’s traffic engineer has determined that this mid-block location is the best place, said Kaufman. Another possible change at the intersection would prohibit a right turn on red from Maple Avenue to Bedford Road.

While several large evergreen screening buffers are included in the plans at the corner of Route 22 and Maple Avenue, and in the back of the park along Route 22, the plan options differ in having either one or two separate grass multi use areas, allowing for more trees and more events at the same time. The options also include cleaning the underbrush of the Wampus River and providing natural plantings underneath the street trees.

Ann Dantzig said the uses of the park should help shape the evaluation of the plans. Advisory Board Chairman DiMauro says the Open Space Committee and the Conservation Board have recommended that Wampus Brook Park South should be a continuation of Wampus Brook Park North. “It should be an open space enjoyed by the community, whether it is for events, picnics, reading, or just a relaxing place.” Director of Planning Kaufman said the park will be designed to absorb an overflow of parking for large events. If that is the case, the park should be one big open space, rather than the two smaller spaces.  

The Advisory Board says the main purpose of the park is to be an open piece of land that would be an eastern gateway to our town. In a statement, DiMauro said, “In developing its final recommendation to the Town Board, our Advisory Board intends to carefully consider the issues addressed at last night’s meeting as well as the many other issues that have been raised during prior meetings. We hope to make our recommendation to the Town Board within the next month. The Town Board will then consider this project for final approval and authorize any required Departmental reviews.”


Wampus Brook Park South Beautification Project Approved
By Jackson Harrower

July 22, 2016
Wampus Brook Park South is across the street from the Gazebo, at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue, next to Elide Plaza. The open space was decimated during Superstorm Sandy and is in need of complete renovation. After years of planning, the North Castle Town Board has approved the construction bid to A Team Contracting Corporation to rebuild the park.

The work will be done under the direction of Joan Goldberg, the town administrator, to reduce the cost through a change work order for a maximum fee of $325,000.

The contracting company’s original bid of $558,508.75 was submitted in line item segments. Therefore, the town can choose to reject parts of the bid such as parking spaces, benches, or irrigation in order to reduce the cost. Financing for the park will come from town’s recreation subdivision fees that have already been collected from multi-housing development.

The park’s plans had input from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, residents, and the town board. The chosen designed is to be peaceful and easily accessible to all residents.

The town board has received the notion to name the park in honor of John F. Fava, the retired Chairman and forty year member of North Castle’s Conservation Board. This will be officially considered at a later date.


Wampus Brook Park Expansion

Updated September 23, 2015
At its September 9 meeting, North Castle’s Town Board approved plans to develop an extension of Wampus Brook Park. The new park referred to as Wampus Brook Park South is to be located at the corners of Route 22, Maple Avenue and Bedford Road. Recommended by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, this corner, known as the “gateway” to the hamlet of Armonk, is described as a welcomed area that will be available for residents to meander in a serene and natural setting, one that's just as inviting as Armonk’s Wampus Brook Park.

The plan, presented by Joseph Cermele of the town’s engineering consultant firm, detailed benches, walkways, open fields, a path that meanders along the stream bank, and a parking lot of 20 spaces. The park will have evergreen trees screening Route 22 and along Elide Plaza. Throughout the park, there are also a mix of shade and ornamental trees, as well as perennial flower gardens. In addition, the area along Maple Avenue, on the west side of the stream, will be more natural looking. Much of this area's slope will be cleared selectively, removing dead vegetation, vines, and underbrush, as well as trees that are in poor condition. The slope will then be planted with a low maintenance mixture of vegetation that will only be mowed a couple of times a year; loosely placed boulders will line the stream to prevent bank erosion.

As with any new plantings, an irrigation system will be essential to properly maintain a lawn; for at least the first year of the gardens, other new plantings and shrubs around the park will be also watered. "Given the rain scarcity that we experienced this summer," Joan Goldberg, North Castle's town administrator, asked if "the water for the irrigation system can be drawn from the stream."

Since the stream is publicly available for permitted contractors to draw water from Wampus Brook, Town Board Member Barbara DiGiacinto, along with other of her colleagues, agreed that they want to see the irrigation system feed from Wampus Brook or from the storm water cisterns in the parking lots, rather than from the town’s potable water supply. The Town Board then set an approval condition that the irrigation system use the stream as its primary water source, when possible.

The park’s construction will be paid for by North Castle’s Recreation Subdivision Fund that has a balance of $397,500. Goldberg said, "We estimate $300,000 of that will go towards the plan."

Recreation subdivision fees have been collected from much of the town’s multi-family development for many years. A recreation fee of $3,000 per unit has been paid to North Castle for all multi-family development, except for assisted-living units and the middle-income units, which have a reduced requirement of $1,000 per unit.
 
Last year, two alternative site plans were considered for the parking area of Wampus Brook Park South. The option chosen was for entire parking to be located in the park itself, rather than shared parking with Elide Plaza.

Further administrative details will be required to move the plan forward. The North Castle Planning Board and the Conservation Board must review the final plans. In addition, a wetlands permit is required, as will a Westchester County stream control permit.



Tree Clearing at Wampus Brook Park South Causes Concern

Updated November 23, 2013

Wampus Brook Park South consists of about three acres of open space. It is located at the intersection of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue, at one of the entrances to downtown Armonk from Route 22. Unfortunately, last year's Superstorm Sandy, which left dangerous conditions with many of the park's old-white pines uprooted and snapped, forced the closing of the park.

Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offered federal relief to assist municipalities with the cleanup of the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. With the help of FEMA aid, many of the damaged trees in Wampus Brook Park were cleared, but some tree stumps remained in the south portion of the park, leaving the park in poor condition.

North Castle's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended to the Town Board to clean up the park. Subsequently, the Town Board approved the project to be bid to clean up the park. Three companies bid on the job, and the contract was awarded to Gentile Construction Corporation for $65,000; their bid was almost $35,000 less than the other two bidders. The funds to establish the new parkland have been allocated from the North Castle's subdivision recreation fees. These funds currently fall under the advisement of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, in which Town Board member John Cronin is the acting liaison. Complete architecture landscape plans are still needed for the design of the park.

The approved clearing plan has three stages: stage one is to clear the debris and trees, and to plant 20 Colorado Blue Spruces now, says Town Administrator Joan Goldberg.

Phase one of the work began on November 14, and consists of clearing the trees and brush from the east side of the brook back to about 30 feet within the inside of the fence that is adjacent to Route 22. The property will be graded as level as possible. This should be completed over the next two days, says Armonk resident, Joe Gentile, who owns Gentile Construction Corp.

The first phase of the park work includes tree removal and clearing of tree stumps from the gravel drive east to the property line adjacent to Elide Plaza. The remaining work for phases two and three require a permit from New York State's Department of Transportation. NYS DOT owns the brook section of the property and part of the property that runs along Route 22 to the corner of Maple Avenue. Goldberg said at one time, the state owned almost the entire three-plus acres. Over time, however, the property was given to the Town, piece-by-piece. The Town would like to take over the remaining area around the brook and according to Goldberg, the Town has already issued a request to take over the property "for the construction of an expanded park." The Town’s sewer-pump station for downtown Armonk is located in the northwest corner, near the Armonk Fire Department's fire horn.

Phases two and three of the plans included cleaning out the brook, and laying six-to-ten-inch stones of riprap along the full length of the brook's bank. A riprap design is intended to prevent erosion on the banks of the brook. The plan also included flush-cutting the tree stumps along the bank. The clearing phase of the brook has been cancelled and any further plans to work in this park will fall under the ruling of the new Town Board.

Phases two requires that the Town wait for a state permit to be issued before the work can continue. The contractor, Joe Gentile, says he was not told that the state permit had not been issued until a few days ago. His bid had been determined by the completion of all three phases at the same time. Gentile said, the Town had no right to start the project without the confirmation of the permits.

But a delay in issuing a state permit happens with municipality work. If the state permit process moves quickly, the project will move ahead. But if not, the delay will cause the equipment to either sit on the site or to be removed and returned at a later date. Either way, if the project is delayed there is a substantial cost to the contractor. This may cause some legal ramifications for the Town as a result of its failure to disclose that the permit had not yet been issued. 

Chair of the North Castle Open Space Committee Kerri Kazak wrote the following in an objectionable letter addressed to the North Castle Town Board dated November 15, 2013: "It is our understanding that this work is being done … in the absence of consultation and approval of the Planning Board; Town Engineer; Town Wetlands Consultant; Architectural Review Board; Conservation Board; and Open Space Committee."

These concerns were discussed at the Town Board's November 20 meeting and it was determined that the new Town Board would further review the options to continue the plans for the park.

Tom Arnold, a resident of the nearby Wampus Close neighborhood, says he is concerned about the road noise from the major intersection at Route 22. "I understand the need to clear the trees that were broken or cracked from the storm and to clean up the debris.” But Arnold said that Route 22 is at a higher grade than the park, and he is concerned that it will take some time for young trees to screen noise from the busy road."

To date, a parking lot has not been designated for the three-acre park. The assumption is that people will park in the nearby Elide Plaza or walk from the neighboring residential areas of Wampus Close and downtown Armonk.

In December 2012, the North Castle Town Board had considered converting the property into a dog park, but the plan was withdrawn after many residents expressed opposition to a dog park at the entrance of Town.

Subsequently, the preliminary sketch that was made for the park calls for a recreation area for outdoor events, perhaps movies, performances, or for the future location, "in the event that the Armonk Outdoor Art Show ever moves," says Joan Goldberg.

Earlier this year, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board withdrew plans, due to the expense, for a 500-seat sports arena that had been considered for Business Park location of the annual Armonk Outdoor Art Show. 

Moreover, the wetlands in the park are environmentally sensitive. The brook flows under Route 22, south to Portchester, and eventually to the Long Island Sound. Goldberg says the Town is trying to clean the brook, which will improve the water flow. At the November 20 Town Board meeting, it was said that the work around the brook will be futher reviewed by the North Castle Conservation Board that advises the Town of wetland issues.

Another facet of the project is removal and replacement of the fence in the back of the property off Route 22; the three-maple trees off of Bedford Road will not be removed; and about two-dozen mature, deciduous Maples located within 30 feet north of the fence will not be removed. The Colorado Blue Spruces will be planted along the back area near the fence by Route 22 for additional screening. The plan also calls for more trees to be planted, but the details have yet to be worked out.

NYS DOT owns the property from the fence along Route 22 and has the authority, away from 40 feet from the center of Route 22. Goldberg said that no work is currently planned for the south side of the fence along Route 22.

Tom Arnold added, "I'd would like to see the residents have a chance to know exactly what is going to happen before the character of a park is dramatically changed, with many trees completely taken down for some redevelopment. There has been no consultation with the residents and the residents should know what is planned there, and have a chance to comment on it."