Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Regarding Tennis Courts, TESD to Seek Zoning Hearing Board Variance

Last night’s School Board agenda included the priority discussion of the Valley Forge Elementary School tennis courts. Much time was spent in reviewing the history of the tennis courts, the parking study and additional parking requirements, the District’s timeline, etc.

After much discussion from School Board members and residents, the Board voted to seek a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board. The application for the next Zoning Hearing Board meeting on Thursday, May 23 is due by May 1. Why is a variance needed to keep the tennis courts … The combined impervious coverage of the additional parking spaces and the tennis courts is slightly more than the township stormwater ordinance permits. If I understood the plan correctly last night, the District’s application to the ZHB will seek a variance for this additional impervious coverage.

The decision as to whether the tennis courts ‘stay or go’ is contingent on the ZHB ruling. If the ZHB denies the variance to the District, the VFES tennis courts will be demolished. If the ZHB grants the variance to the District, my impression from the discussion was that it still is not a definite that the courts will be saved. Several Board members voiced concern that there could be unknown additional costs to saving the courts. The solicitor Ken Roos was careful to include wording in the motion to include an ‘out’, if it turns out there are other costs to saving the courts. According to Facilities chair Pete Motel, some of the costs to save the tennis courts are known. (1) because of the existing contract; the District will pay $14K to the contractor not to demolish the tennis courts, (2) filing fee of $2K to the ZHB (although it was suggested that the Board of Supervisors may waive the fee if asked, and (3) the cost of District experts (solicitor, architect) to prepare the application and attend ZHB meeting.

Township manager Bill Martin commented that the township staff would be available to help the District with the application. Both he and the District solicitor Ken Roos were clear that the township cannot control the outcome of the ZHB … the Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body whose decisions are not subject to the approval of the supervisors.

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  1. Given the storm water issues in the valley there, it would be bad mojo for the ZHB to grant any variance down there. Because the next time someone wants to exceed the limits, they can use the tennis courts as an example. Don’t think that won’t happen.

    I wasn’t there, but I imagine that the only people who were there to support this tennis court agenda were people who live within walking distance and are selfish enough to think they deserve these courts for their own personal recreation. This is school property. The school could put no trespassing signs up and have people removed any time they want. Especially during the school day. At the last meeting it was stated that the school doesn’t use it and it’s not part of their curriculum. Meaning it has zero educational value.

    Personally, I hope the ZHB rejects the notion to increase impervious space. They will be doing their best judgment based on the facts of the rainwater problems.

    1. CJ, exactly right. And then others jump on the bandwagon as if some grand crime is being committed. Hope the school puts a no trespassing sign on it. Wonder when the first major injury will occur to one of the louder neighbors… I can see the lawsuit now..

  2. I would once again ask — why is there always a need for more parking spaces?? really — this is an elementary school. Remember the debacle at T/E Middle school and the need for more parking…….. Same Facilities Committee Chairman…… there are certainly more important ways to spend the facilities budget than on unneeded parking spaces.

    1. TESD spent a lot of time and money trying to put a parking lot in at TEMS. Plus they had to deal with stormwater issues also.They were given a 5 yr permit to build from the township …hopefully that will expire soon.

  3. Again I ask, rephrasing Papadick…what is the driving force for the parking expansion? Is it to comply with an ordinance? Facts do matter.

    1. As explained by the School Board, the District’s 2008 parking study concluded that additional parking was needed at VFES. However, a VFES neighbor spoke last night that an offer from the church (next-door to VFES) was in the works. Because the church only uses their parking lot primarily on Sundays, an arrangement could be worked out for use by the District. There was need feedback on this option from the Board — probably because the parking lot expansion is under contract. I’m still trying to understand how the contractor will charge $14K NOT to remove the tennis courts — the cost to remove it was $22K or $24K. Seems like a steep price to change the contract. But bottom line — the decision to add the parking is based on a 2008 District parking study.

      1. So let us see how Motel and his Committee spend our money. $24,000 to demolish and remove — 14,000 NOT to remove — so the real cost of the removal is $10,000.??? Sounds like these guys need to back to math classes or get another lawyer — oh yes Buraks is a lawyer.

  4. The parking spots are not unneeded. There is barely enough parking for teachers and staff in the lot let alone visitors. There is a need for more spaces which is what the study was about, There is overflow in the field as well as on the street but is it reasonable that teachers and staff would have to park there!

    The church ‘next-door’ to VFES is not that close and would be quite a haul to walk.

    I would guess the number of spots at the school is way less than what is required under zoning ordinances.

    Demo the courts and put the parking in according to the plan.

    The township has many tennis courts over at D’Ambrosio that are available.

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