Unionville Park could start construction this fall

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Sale of old Po-Mar-Lin firehouse and lot to township finalized

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

If all permits are obtained in the next month, township officials said Monday that construction of Phase 1 of Unionville park could start in the fall.

If all permits are obtained in the next month, township officials said Monday that construction of Phase 1 of Unionville park could start in the fall.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — The final hurdles to begin construction of the first phase of Unionville Park could be cleared as early as September — meaning that the first piece of the project could be complete before year’s end, township officials said Monday night.

A few minutes after completing a deal with the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company to purchase the old firehouse/meeting hall/Post Office building and the gravel parking lot behind the building — a total of 4 ½ acres of property — township engineer Jim Hatfield walked the Board of Supervisors through the likely schedule for the park.

Hatfield said Monday that just one permit remains to be obtained from the state Department of Environmental Protection — likely to be granted in the coming weeks — which would allow the township to put the project out to bid next month.

Should those bids come in within the budget, supervisors would be in position to approve bids in August, with construction to start in September. Hatfield said that the first phase of park construction would likely take between two months and 10 weeks, although some of the plantings for the park would still have to be done in the spring of 2014.

The purchase of the former fire station building and lot represents a change to the plans for the park. By spending some $225,000 to buy the property, now a new parking lot, expected to cost some $230,000 according to estimates when the plans were initially approved in 2011, will not be needed. The new lot would have required a costly underground stormwater retention basin, replacing an existing basin.

“With this purchase, more parkland can remain open and the cost of the new parking lot can be avoided,” Board of Supervisors chair Cuyler Walker said.

The purchase also means the addition of a facility for the township, potentially for use as a community center or meeting space for various organizations. Currently, the Newlin Township Board of Supervisors and other public bodies meet in the building, but, potentially, other uses could be added for the community benefit. The U.S. Post Office on the site is expected to remain.

One remaining issue: the driveway built behind the new fire station. Hatfield referred to it as “public driveway” specifically not wanting to class it as a public road. However, when it was built, township officials asked that it be built to road standards, rather than normal driveway standards. Supervisor Robert Weer said that there had been a “gentleman’s agreement” for the township to cover the difference in cost, but that it had never been paid to the fire company.

The issue becomes more important, as the building and and parking lot would potentially use the driveway to exit back onto Route 82.

Hatfield said his firm, Vandemark & Lynch, would be able to determine the cost difference between building the driveway to township road code and a more typical driveway.

While Walker noted that there was no formal agreement or obligation to reimburse the fire company, he was not opposed to it in concept.

“It may be appropriate to pay for it,” he said.

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