Ballfield project moves through planning commission

By Ryan Cornell

MIDDLETOWN – The ballfield project has gotten a little bit closer to reaching first base.

The Middletown Planning Commission on Monday forwarded a legal agreement with Team 84 Athletes — the Winchester nonprofit proposing the project — to Town Council with some minor changes from the town attorney.

The proposal outlines upgrading the town park’s existing softball field into a baseball diamond and adding another baseball field as well as a concession stand, press box, bathroom and parking lot.

Commission Chairman John Blaisdell said there were a couple of changes made to the legal agreement by the attorney that addresses the issues they were concerned about, including adjusting the closing time of the baseball fields from 11 p.m. to meet the park’s current closing time of 9 p.m. Another revision states that the town would be responsible for mowing the fields along with the rest of the park, but the rest of the maintenance, including marking lines and caring for the fields and fences would remain with Team 84 Athletes.

Commission member Mark Brown voiced concerns over the location of the proposed field, which would face toward the southwest.

“How can you have a ballfield where kids are looking directly into the sun when they’re batting?” Brown asked. “…You can’t see a pitch coming at you. That’s dangerous. That’s common sense.”

The agreement states that the lessee would pay $10 per practice and $25 per game held on the fields once Team 84 Athletes has recouped its initial cash outlays.

Brown asked how the organization was going to recoup its expenses — the cost of the project is currently estimated to run between $50,000 and $75,000.

“It’s a blank cheque,” Brown said. “…[W]e have no idea what those expenses are or when they are recouped. So what I’m saying is, 30 years from now, they might say they have not recouped their expenses yet.”

Blaisdell said that each team that plays will pay money, as done in other little league divisions. He added that the expenses relate to the operating costs including water and power for the concession stand and press box.

“The fees that they get will be used to pay that,” Blaisdell said. “Anything that’s left over will be given back to the town.

“If they decide to default and move out, the facilities will belong to the town,” he added. “The ball diamond and et cetera. The only thing they would be able to take with them are portable items.”

The legal agreement will appear before a public hearing and town council to be approved.

At its meeting, the Planning Commission also:

  • Recommended approval of a special use permit for Valley Auto at 7947 Main St. to operate as a car sales lot
  • Approved passing an application for the Board of Zoning Appeals to the Town Council
  • Discussed renegotiating the proffer agreement with the Wayside Theater

The Planning Commission meets next on July 28.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com