Wyndmoor residents protest proposed changes at local park

News August 17, 2011 0 Comments

by Madeleine Wattenbarger

This summer, Wyndmoor residents have found themselves head-to-head with the Springfield Soccer Club, grappling over the future use of Willow Grove Avenue’s Wyndhill Park.
While neighbors want to keep their park a quiet  green, SSC hopes to turn it into an athletic field.
The conflict has incited intense discussion and insistent protest from locals as they seek to preserve their community space.
SSC vice president Steven Griet wrote in an April 30 letter that Bysher Field, where the club currently practices, has suffered from overuse. The club shares the field with groups from St. Genevieve’s School.
With over 300 members, the SSC teams operate on a tight schedule, and the park requires paid maintenance at the end of each season.
Bysher Field also lacks lighting. Though the soccer season typically runs through the late autumn, early sunsets cut play short each year.
So converting Wyndhill Park to a field would relieve stress on Bysher Park. It would allow the soccer teams to finish their seasons for the first time.
The change wouldn’t necessarily benefit everyone, though. In mid-May, Township Manager Donald Berger sent letters to 34 neighbors of Wyndhill Park. He requested comments on the project, and the three responses varied from affirmation to vehement opposition.
At an Aug. 4 meeting, two neighbors delivered presentations detailing their objections to the project. Both pointed out that the project would violate zoning regulations: The field is located in a Zone A district, where the Township Code doesn’t specifically permit recreational facilities.
But the code doesn’t expressly prohibit them, either. According to Jeffrey Harbison, Board of Commissioners president and Ward 2 commissioner, the township doesn’t see the zoning concerns as relevant.
In addition to zoning issues, though, the neighbors also cited concerns of noise, safety, adequate parking and environmental damage, among others. The area around Wyndhill Park already suffers from a dearth of parking spaces, so the families arriving for soccer practices would exceed the area’s capacity.
At the August meeting, Wyndmoor resident Donald Lewis presented a petition signed by 130 local taxpayers. He proposed that SSC look elsewhere for a playing surface.
Right now, they may do just that: A committee was formed to discuss other possible fields for SSC.
“One of the main disconnects at the meeting was that the township staff felt that this was the only option, while the neighbors were saying that other sites would be better,”  Harbison explained during a phone interview.
The committee meeting on Aug. 31 will deal with those issues, bringing neighbors up-to-speed on the situation and beginning to resolve the debate.
The Board of Commissioners will meet on Sept. 12. Until then, the Wyndhill Park project will not move forward.

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