KENT—Kent Affordable Housing and the Park & Recreation Commission reached an apparent compromise Monday night when KAH President Justin Potter conceded that a parcel of land it wants for drainage might be reduced in size.
KAH is seeking just over 1.2 acres of town-owned land on which to expand its South Commons affordable housing units. It is also seeking a smaller parcel where it can direct storm water runoff into a retention area. The Park & Rec Commission, however, is eyeing the same smaller parcel for additional parking.
“We are in the process of delineating the parcel we are seeking from the town,” said Potter. “The last thing we need to do is to work out with Park & Rec where the line will go.”
He added that wetlands on the site have been delineated since earlier discussions.
The existing Park & Rec parking lot can accommodate about 140 vehicles. The area the KAH would like to acquire is adjacent and consists of two piles of dirt, one with trees growing out of it. Potter conceded that the space would accommodate even more parking once cleared.
But, he said, the KAH needs space for stormwater management and suggested that using the space under the dirt piles for stormwater management could be advantageous for both Park & Rec and KAH.
Lynn Mellis Worthington, Board of Selectman liaison to Park & Rec, asked Potter why an easement would not suffice. Potter said that with the infrastructure needed, ownership of the parcel would be easier.
Worthington asked what volume of water would be generated and Potter said that would depend on development. “But in order to start planning, we need to know the parcel of land we can use,” he said. “First we need site control and then we can start design, but [Park & Rec Director Jared Kuczenski] has been adamant about needing a ton of parking.”
The need for a comprehensive plan plagues Park & Rec, as well. Member Abagail Smith Hanby referred to that group’s frustrated efforts to develop a comprehensive plan.
“Once we draw plans for the town park, we may be looking at the same parcel,” she said. “I’m sad to have to say we have wanted a plan for both of our parks and our plan gets pushed back and pushed back. I don’t know what information we have that we can use. I would hate to hold up affordable housing in our town, but we haven’t been able to make a plan that allows an informed decision.”
Kuczenski said that he had little concern about the larger request for land. “I don’t think we need it,” he said. “The grass area below that has a lot of space and is very developable. [But for the area where the piles of dirt are], our original concept was to bring the parking lot back there. The [existing] parking lot is full every day. I don’t understand water management, but to lose that space for a retention pond, I don’t think I can get on board with that.”
Potter said there is a “great need for affordable housing” and that he would accept whatever concession Park & Rec might make.
Hanby said Park & Rec is studying the possibility of installing a water feature at the park as well as basketball courts. “We know recreation adds to the health and well-being of the community.,” she said. “It’s unfortunate because if we had a plan, we might be able to give more.”
“I kept going back to the fact that I have been around parks for a while and the problem is always parking,” said Kuczenski. “We live in a day and age when everyone drives. People say they can walk—no, they won’t. I don’t want to see us box ourselves in. You will fill that parking lot faster than you can say a one-syllable word. With the vision the commission all seems to be sharing, we can’t forget about parking.”
Worthington noted that parking could not be established in a wetland, and it was noted that the land underneath the piles of dirt might reveal wetland soils.
The possibility that both the KAH and Park & Rec could benefit from directing storm water run-off onto a reduced parcel appealed to both sides. Park & Rec Commission member John Grant noted that water now pools above the tennis courts and could be directed to the retention area. “It would be a win-win for us,” he said.
Potter said KAH could work with the town to direct water toward a smaller retention area.
Park & Rec Commission Chairman Michael Perkins, asked for a clean copy of the map delineating where the retention area would be to bring to the board for approval.