Victory Field Plans Scrapped, Requirement for Project – Grass

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The effort to renovate the track area of Victory Field will start again from scratch and Town Council President Mark Sideris gave the group in charge of designing it one directive – it must have natural grass.

The plan for Phase 2 of the Victory Field renovation included replacing the grass in the middle of the track with artificial turf. The Town Council asked the architects to make some changes to the plan at the Sept. 23 meeting, but Town Council President Mark Sideris proposed starting the project over at Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

The plan had been drawn up by architects from CDM and officials from the Recreation Department. Residents made it clear at two meetings in September, that the majority of the people opposed parts of the project – mostly the artificial turf.

Sideris said he and other Councilors heard the residents loud and clear.

“I think this is where we fell short as the design was done without community input before it was presented,” Sideris said.

While many opposed parts of the project, there were areas of agreement among the residents at the meetings. He announced Tuesday a proposal to start over.

“Having heard from the general public at the meetings and given the number of issues that remain outstanding with this project, I am request ing a change to the process I laid out at the last council meeting,” Sideris said. “I am asking to send the design of Victory Field Phase 2 renovations back to the drawing board.”

Sideris had only one requirement: “that the field inside the track shall remain natural grass and not be artificial turf as this is the element of the proposal that has created the most concern in throughout the community.”

While many oppose it, the artificial turf was supported by Watertown High School coaches and athletes as well as some youth sports coaches.

Overseeing the project design will be a nine-member Ad Hoc Committee on Victory Field Renovations.

The committee will include four elected or town officials:

  • District C Councilor Vincent Piccirilli (Victory Field is in his district) who will serve as chairman
  • Chair of the Committee on Human Services Tony Palomba, who will serve as vice chairman. That committee oversees recreation issues
  • Director of Recreation Peter Centola
  • Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon or his designee to ensure compliance with Watertown’s Open Space Plan

The committee will also have five appointed members representing key stakeholders:

  • Three members of the general public selected by Sideris, including one direct abutter to represent the concerns of the neighborhood, and two other members to represent users of the track and field that are not related to school athletics or youth sports
  • One member will be a member of Watertown youth sports groups and will be selected by Sideris
  • One member who represents the Watertown Public Schools athletics program selected by School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer, who could be an athlete, a member of the school administration or a member of the School Committee

The Town Council voted unanimously to support Sideris’ proposal.

Elodia Thomas, who lives next to Victory Field and opposed multiple parts of the project, commended Sideris’ plan.

“I just want to thank Councilor Sideris. He put together a very fair, very sensible solution to this situation,” Thomas said. She added that she is confident the new Victory Field will be “beautiful” and will meet the needs of all Watertown residents.

The ad hoc committee will hold public meetings, so times and places of the meetings will be posted ahead of time, the meetings will be open to the public and minutes of meetings will be posted on the Town website (www.watetown-ma.gov).

Sideris seeks people interested in serving on the committee. He asked them to submit a letter or email of interest to the Town Council President stating why they should be appointed and what relevant area they would represent.

The deadline for applying is Nov. 7, 2014. Letters can be sent to Town Council Clerk, Town Hall, 149 Main St., Watertown 02472; or emailed to vpapas@watertown-ma.gov.

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