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Planning Board approves site plan for pickleball/tennis facility off Fruit Street

by | May 9, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Planning Board on Monday night approved the site plans for the eagerly anticipated pickleball/tennis facility at 17 Pratt Way, off Fruit Street, the only hearing on the agenda.

Vice chair Mary Larson-Marlowe chaired the 30-minute meeting in the absence of Chair Gary Trendel. This was the last meeting for her as well as fellow board members Fran DeYoung and Paul Ostrander, who decided not to seek reelection.

Two tennis courts were proposed, one of which can be converted into four pickleball courts. Inclusion of a tennis court was required by the town. There also will be a storage shed and a small shaded seating area, as well as a 28-space parking lot. No lights were proposed because of the cost.

Principal Planner John Gelcich explained that there had been some “back and forth” between project engineer Andrew Leonard and Phil Paradis, the town’s engineering consultant from BETA Group, since the last meeting on April 24 to address some minor drainage concerns that were raised at that time.

“They have now gotten the OK from BETA that says all of BETA’s comments have been addressed,” Gelcich said.

Leonard explained that original configuration of the project didn’t change. A structure was added that will reduce particulates from entering the bioswales. Previously, there had been a delay in constructing the test pit for the bioswales because of the Boston Marathon, but the work was completed before the previous meeting and was reflected on the plans.

“Other than that, it was just some minor tweaks as to the spot elevations and the configuration of the overflow out of the bioswale areas where, if they were to fill up, where the overflow would go,” Leonard said. No changes were made to the court configuration, parking area or entry and exit ways.

The applicant, the Parks & Recreation Department, requested three waivers, which were approved in an 8-0 vote. A waiver for administrative fees was approved because Parks & Rec is a town organization, but the fees for the BETA consultation will be assessed. Parks & Rec also requested a waiver for the sidewalk requirement along the frontage of the site. Larson-Marlowe said that, given the nature of the project, it would be appropriate not to locate a sidewalk there.

The third waiver for lighting was briefly discussed. Member Ron Priefer asked why lighting was not proposed for the courts so they could be utilized during evening hours.

Parks & Recreation Director Jay Guelfi explained that the cost of the upgrade of the site by Eversource to provide electricity capabilities was “more expensive than the actual project itself.” He said he encountered the same problem when the Fruit Street fields were built.

“We’ve been down this road before,” he said. “It’s just not feasible to do that.”

Said Larson-Marlowe: “Perhaps one day we will have everything electrified there.”

Replied Priefer: “One can dream.”

The previous estimated project cost was $743,000. Money was appropriated for the facility by the Community Preservation Committee.

Member Rob Benson noted that the Fruit Street area now is being used more by Hopkinton residents because of the dog park and passive recreation. He asked if there was a “big picture” for the land.

“Depending on who you talk to, the big picture is different,” Guelfi explained. “From the Parks & Recreation standpoint, we’ve maxed out our footprint there.”

Guelfi noted that, according to the Fruit Street master plan, Parks & Rec only has “a small segment” of the land. This prompted Benson to ask what other town entities had rights to the land there. Guelfi noted that some parcels there have been designated for affordable housing.

Larson-Marlowe suggested that the Fruit Street master plan be presented to the Planning Board “in the near future” to help people understand who has rights to portions of the land, which Gelcich said he would bring forward to Trendel. DeYoung noted that there are a number of trails that are intertwined there.

Member Jane Moran added that scout activities also occur on the site after school and on weekends, including camping.

“It’s a bit foggy as to what the long-term plans are for that parcel,” Guelfi said.

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