Tennis and Trees

A Long and Winding Road

New Plans and Town Council Approval

“Somewhere between the zealotry of the ‘Halt all development now before another tree is lost!’ crowd and the zealotry of the ‘It’s just a stupid tree’ crowd lies a reasonable approach that rejects the false choice between trees and homes, and businesses.” Strong Towns

On Monday, May 9th, the Stratford Town Council approved an engineering and design change for the Longbrook Park Tennis Court Replacement project. The alternate location change will not remove any trees, nor will there be additional costs, in fact there may be a credit since no trees will be removed. And—they are going to transplant 2 additional trees at the site.

Thank you all who made this happen, over 680 people went to a petition on Change.org asking our town administration to halt the destruction of two old growth trees.

Background:

As per regulations, the Town was obligated to serve notice of the proposed tree removal, and residents had 10 days to register comments.  They did.

To put the public hearing in perspective, according to the Town charter any tree removals by the town require a formal notification, and, after 10 days, the removal is subject to a Public Hearing if contested.  The notice of tree removals was posted on a Town website on December 20th, and 70 appeals were sent to tree warden (Kelly F. Kerrigan) which resulted in the public hearing being scheduled.

The notice of removal of trees sparked a Change.org petition, Save Stratford Trees, which generated over 680 people signing the Save Stratford Trees.

The Tree Warden (Kelly Kerrigan) conducted a public hearing on February 24th, based on the written submissions from the community contesting the removal of trees for a tennis court project at Longbrook Park.

The people who attended had an opportunity address their concerns to the Tree Warden. Based on the comments made at the public hearing, the Tree Warden requested that the Stratford Town Council review the project to see if fewer trees could be removed under an alternate layout.

December 31st

The Stratford Crier contacted Second District Town Councilwoman Kaitlyn Shake, who also heads the Longbrook Park Commission.   According to Councilwoman Shake she had been requesting documentation since June, and was just provided information on Monday (December 27th) of the description and location of the trees.

At the commission’s December 1st meeting Mr. Esposito reported: “Kick off Longbrook tennis court project meeting was Tuesday November 30th. 9 trees will be removed. 14 trees will be replanted” Questions and concerns were posed to Mr. Esposito re: (1) color scheme of the tennis courts (2) environmental mailer to area residents re: construction of the new courts (3) parking strategies.”

Ms. Shake raised the complaint that the commission was never informed of the final project plan and reiterated that moving forward updates should be emailed to her directly so they can be disseminated to commission.

This lack of information on the plans, despite no public comment, or supporting documentation submitted to Planning, the Town Council approved the plans and tree removal.

When first submitted to Planning they requested that the plan address the water issues for Longbrook and do an 8-24 Review for wetlands, as the project did not address the water issues that would be affecting the courts.  Despite Planning’s suggestions, the Town Attorneys were sent to the next Planning meeting on September 21st to claim that it did not need to do an 8-24:

State Representative Joe Gresko weighed in on the controversial project before a Town Council Meeting: “Although the town council has approved the tennis court project at Longbrook Park, I’m appealing the removal of the eight trees, especially the old growth oak trees, which as you know, are icons of the park.  Having worked together to secure the recent $37K grant from DEEP to plant more trees in Stratford to increase our canopy, these existing majestic trees are already accomplishing that goal.  I realize this last minute objection is not what those who worked on the project want to deal with, but I believe it’s critical to preserve as many old growth trees as possible.”

The Town of Stratford then scheduled a Public Hearing in accordance with Chapter 451, Section 23-59 CGS for the appeal of the removal of trees for the tennis court project at Longbrook Park. This was scheduled for February 24th. (Note: this was a rescheduled Public Hearing by Kelly Kerrigan, Environmental Conservation Superintendent, to better accommodate the community.)

Over 100 people showed up at Stratford Town Hall to participate in the Public Hearing on February 24th for the appeal of the removal of trees for the tennis court project at Longbrook Park.  Twenty-five residents signed up to speak.

March 11th

“The Tree Warden conducted a public hearing on February 24th, 2022, based on the written submissions from the community contesting the removal of trees for a tennis court project at Longbrook Park. The people who attended had an opportunity address their concerns to the Tree Warden. Based on the comments made at the public hearing, the Tree Warden is requesting that the Stratford Town Council review the project to see if fewer trees can be removed under an alternate layout.”  Kelly F. Kerrigan, Environmental Conservation Superintendent

March 14th

On the agenda at the regular meeting of the Town Council on March 14th was the Longbrook Park Tennis Court Replacement Project.  The Council vote was to authorize Brian Snyder, of Snyder Associates, to proceed with engineering and design changes and preparation of a new set of construction documents for the Longbrook Park tennis courts at an alternate location in Longbrook Park.

 

Raynae Serra, Director, Department of Public Works for the Town of Stratford, noted that a change of plans would need a geological test, i.e. how much ledge is there, to answer if can construction be moved; and what would be the cost to move the location of the courts.  Serra said that she is unsure of the complete costs, as the company was ready to start construction two months ago, and at that time there were credits for starting on time.

Once the new plans were drawn they were submitted to Parks and Recreation and Longbrook Park Commission for approval and the again would go before the Town Council.  In a vote of 9-0 the Council authorized the new study.

Longbrook Park Tennis Courts – Timeline in the public record of Commissions/Council

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, December 3, 2020 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/112811/Dec_3_PRC_minutes.pdf Question is asked whether the tennis courts at Longbrook Park will be repaired.

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, January 7, 2021 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/Jan_7_PRC_minutes.pdf Report of the Parks Superintendent includes “Post Tension Tennis Courts at Longbrook Park – Engineers are working on plans, the least obtrusive of which has the two courts remaining where  they are and on the side where the clubhouse is, with all courts having a north – south orientation.”

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, February 4, 2021 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/Feb_4_PRC_mtg_minutes. pdf

Report of the Parks Superintendent includes “Post Tension Tennis Courts at Longbrook Park – awaiting information from architect and engineers for design”

Minutes: Longbrook Park Commission meeting, March 3, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43811/44385/123102/2021-03- 03_longbrook-Min.pdf

“Longbrook Park Tennis Courts – Mr. Esposito reported. Three draft plans for Tennis Court upgrade/renovations were forwarded to Commissioners prior to the meeting. The preliminary plans indicate the least impact to the area such as tree removal. 4 tennis courts are proposed for the area. The plans will again be reviewed. Plan option #1 fits the criteria best for least impact to area.”

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, March 4, 2021 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/Mar_4_PRC_mtg_minutes. pdf

A motion was made and passed “to forward Longbrook Tennis Courts Option #1 to the Town Council with a favorable recommendation, with the project proceeding based on available appropriations.”

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commision meeting, May 6, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/May_6_PRC_minute s.pdf

Report of the Parks Superintendent includes “…engineers are doing a final review of the Longbrook tennis courts, which Mr. Esposito will present to the PRC prior to going out to bid.”

Minutes: Longbrook Park Commission meeting, June 2, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43811/44385/123102/2021-06- 02_longbrook-Min.pdf

“Tennis Courts – Mr. Esposito reviewed the project site vicinity map and plan timeline. Mr. Perillo inquired about lighting: have bases for lighting set up so as to add lighting in the future. Project plans to be approved by Longbrook Park Commission and Parks and Recreation Committee.”

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, June 3, 2021 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/June_3_PRC_minutes.pdf

Report of the Parks Superintendent includes “Longbrook Tennis Courts — The base bid will include four post tension concrete courts, as well as new black perimeter fencing…Some trees will be removed, but far less than would have been if a different court orientation were chosen…An 8-24 Review Application must be submitted and approved through the Planning & Zoning Commission, and then the Town Council.”

Minutes: Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, September 2, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/Sept_2_PRC_Minute s.pdf

Report of the Parks Superintendent includes “The bids are in for the Longbrook tennis courts.”

Minutes: Planning Commission meeting, September 21, 2021

https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43821/44476/122709/Sept_21_-_PC_minutes.pdf

Longbrook Tennis Courts: “Attorney Jackson stated the definition of an 8-24 Review, and explained that the work at Longbrook Park tennis courts is not defined as a “substantial change to the park” but is rather just a change to one part of Longbrook Park. Mr. Gerics stated that he feels the changes to the tennis courts are significant. Ms. Attota stated that it cannot be added to the agenda, as per the Town Attorney, it does not warrant an 8-24 Review. Mr. Gerics questioned how Attorney Jackson’s opinion can be challenged. Per Attorney Jackson, it can be sent to the Town Council. Ms. Attota reminded members that the Planning Commission is part of the entire Town. The Town Council ultimately chooses whether it can be sent to the Planning Commission, and suggested discussing the matter with Parks Dept. Mr. Staley stated that it will be Stratford High School’s home court, but feels the process should be done correctly. Mr. Watson noted that Town Council members are not planning experts. Per Mr. Boyd, the Planning Commission was not aware of the plans until after the 35-day window closed. Mr. Watson accepted a motion by Mr. Gerics to suggest the Town Council re-visit the Longbrook Tennis Courts plans. Mr. Boyd seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.”

Minutes: Longbrook Park Commission meeting, October 6, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43811/44385/123102/2021-10- 06_longbrook-Min.pdf

“Current status of Longbrook Park tennis courts: All bids so far have been over budget of 750,000 – therefore non accepted. Updated plan includes removal of 7 mature trees or more which was not included in original presentation to Longbrook Park Commission. Commission is following up for need of 8-24 review and public forum before any work officially begins.”

Minutes: Parks & Recreation Commission meeting, October 7, 2021 https://stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43817/44433/122544/Oct_7_PRC_minutes.pdf A motion was made and passed to award Town Bid #2022-14 to Classic Turf Company LLC, of Woodbury, CT with a favorable recommendation to Town Council.

Minutes: Town Council meeting, November 8, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43489/44627/122673/MINUTES_TOWN_ COUNCIL_11-8-21.pdf

“7.3 Award of Town Bid #2022-14 – Longbrook Tennis Courts · Award of Town Bid #2022-14

Longbrook Tennis Courts to Classic Turf Company, L.L.C. of Woodbury, CT based upon the lowest responsible bid in the amount of $703,918, as referred by the Parks and Recreation Committee with a favorable recommendation. RESOLVED: that the award of Town Bid #2022- 14- Longbrook Tennis Courts to Classic Turf Company, L.L.C. of Woodbury, CT based upon the lowest responsible bid in the amount of $703,918 be and is hereby approved and that the Mayor be and is hereby authorized to enter into a contract for such in form acceptable to the Town Attorney. MR. O’BRIEN MOVED ITEM 7.3; SECONDED BY MR. PERILLO. Brian Snyder, Snyder Architects and Town Attorney Hodgson provided details, clarifications, and answered questions. THE MOTION PASSED 9 TO 1 – MS. SHAKE OPPOSED.”

Minutes: Longbrook Park Commission meeting, December 1, 2021 https://www.stratfordct.gov/filestorage/39832/42634/43811/44385/123102/2021-12- 01_longbrook-Min.pdf

“Parks Superintendent Report – Mr. Esposito reported. … Kick off Longbrook tennis court project meeting was Tuesday November 30th. 9 trees will be removed. 14 trees will be replanted.

Ms.Shake raised the complaint that the commission was never informed of the final project plan and reiterated that moving forward updates should be emailed to her directly so they can be disseminated to commission.”

3 replies
  1. Paula Sweeley
    Paula Sweeley says:

    Many thanks for this very complete and thorough report. The Mayor’s newsletter had just this to say:

    Stratford Town Council Approves Alternative Longbrook Park Tennis Court Design

    “The Stratford Town Council unanimously approved an alternative design for tennis courts at Longbrook Park for costs not to exceed $703,918 – the amount approved back in November. Several residents raised concerns about the removal of eight trees to accommodate the new courts. In the alternative plan no trees will be removed though two smaller ones will be transplanted.”

    BELOW is the part I ❤️ in THE CRIER’S incredibly thorough and detailed account of the Longbrook Park trees:

    “On Monday, May 9th, the Stratford Town Council approved an engineering and design change for the Longbrook Park Tennis Court Replacement project. The alternate location change will not remove any trees, nor will there be additional costs, in fact there may be a credit since no trees will be removed. And—they are going to transplant 2 additional trees at the site.”

    You then go on to fully elucidate
    the long and arduous series of events that FINALLY resulted in preserving those beautiful old growth trees. I must admit that the process is somewhat overwhelming, but it strikes me that there is a great need for a more open and understandable process so that the public can be involved and have its wishes taken into account on matters of our ecology, new construction and all matters that affect our quality of life in Stratford. For the public to be included and their input sought after needs to be part of the process, and it should not be so difficult.
    From the results of this petition, the public wants to be involved and wants to protect our ecology:

    https://www.change.org/p/save-stratford-trees#:~:text=Signing%20this%20petition%20is%20a,Stratford%27s%20natural%20character%20and%20heritage.%E2%80%9D

    Reply

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