Park definition revised, again

WESTFIELD – The simple process of adopting the definition for a park may well be completed through debate on the City Council floor. The Legislative & Ordinance and the Zoning, Planning & Development committees voted last night to approve an amendment that gives private, non-profit parks open to the general public the same “weight” as municipal parks, but would exclude commercial amusement facilities.
The issue of wording and intent of the proposed definition was debated for more than an hour last night. That discussion included input from the committee members, Ward 3 Councilor Ann Callahan (who submitted the issue as a motion), City Planner Jay Vinskey, Stanley Park officials and citizens attending the session.
Rob Levesque, a landscape architect and a member of the Stanley Park Board of Directors, said the park, located on land zoned for Residence A use, is a pre-existing, non-conforming use, but that the directors have some concern of how the zoning regulation may effect future construction at the park, including replacement of the original pavilion that was demolished a year ago because of deterioration to the load-bearing structures.
Levesque said that changing each class of property to allow private non-profit parks would be onerous.
“So we asked Councilor Callahan to change the definition of parks,” Levesque said. “We don’t want big commercial parks in the city.  Our intent is to keep it to non-profits.”
Stanley Park Director Bob McKean said “we’re not here to make any major changes” to the park and its operation.
“We don’t want a liquor license,” said McKean. “We don’t want to compete with other businesses.”
Legislative & Ordinance Chairman Christopher Keefe, the Ward 1 Councilor, said the code of ordinance is for all property in the city and that the committees will present a definition of a park to the City Council which will determine in what zones of the ordinance code those facilities will be allowed.
At-large Councilor Agma Sweeney, the Chairwoman of the Zoning, Planning & Development Committee, said that her concern “is what is going to happen to (Stanley) Park?”
“As a resident and as an At-large Councilor I’m concerned about the possibility that expansion will effect the park in a negative way, if that expansion carves a big chunk out of the forest at Stanley Park,” Sweeney said.
Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean advised Sweeney to focus on the task at hand, establishing a definition of a park.
“We’re not here to make decisions on the future of Stanley Park.  We’re here to discuss a definition, not what might happen in 10, 15 or 20 years,” Crean said. “We can’t make a decision on the perspective of things we don’t know.”
“Nothing changes (in the zoning codes).  All we’re doing is making a definition,” Crean said. “If at some future time Stanley Park wants to make changes greater that 10 percent, they still have to go through all of the boards, Planning Conservation, Zoning, that they’d have to go through today.”
Keefe proposed the amendment that was approved by unanimous votes of both committees. The definition, as amended last night , reads:
“A park, municipal or otherwise, is an area of land intended for outdoor enjoyment by the general public, which may have affiliated facilities for conservation, recreation, assembly, concession, amusement, administration and the like and operated principally as a non-profit use.”

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