The Colchester Selectboard endorsed a plan in August to locate a community and fitness center on five acres at Bayside Park, starting with an outdoor pool.
The facility would displace some current park amenities onto the undeveloped town-owned 14 acres across the street. Voters approved purchase of the undeveloped property between East Lakeshore Drive and Blakely Road in 2004 with an eye toward community recreation.
The selectboard also endorsed a three-tiered phasing plan for the community center starting with construction of a $3.3 million outdoor pool and bathhouse. Phase II is construction of a $4.2 million community/fitness center building, and phase III is enclosing the pool.
Consultant GreenPlay of Colorado recommended Bayside Park among five proposed locations, and parks and recreation staff recommended the phased approach. A survey of residents GreenPlay conducted in June identified an outdoor pool as a top recreational priority, according to GreenPlay’s Chuck Musgrave.
Voter approval is required to borrow the funds for the structures, with revenue from the town’s local sales tax — implemented last year and collecting about $1.2 million annually — a primary source of debt service.
“Initially we probably can’t afford an indoor pool, so let’s do this in incremental stages,” parks and recreation director Glen Cuttitta said. “You get the end result you want, but in the meantime, as money is accumulating, we can have an outdoor pool.”
GreenPlay and town staff narrowed potential locations to a final two: Bayside Park and Severance Corners. Over the three phases, GreenPlay estimates the Bayside location will cost about $100,000 more than Severance would have, primarily because of the cost of a new on-site septic system as opposed to the sewer connection at Severance Corners.
However, for the outdoor pool, Bayside is estimated to cost about $150,000 cheaper because the town owns that property.
Town administrators have met with Severance Corners landowner Malcolm Severance periodically about the possibility of public acquisition of three of the roughly 110 acres Severance owns for a community center.
“They never did ask me [for a land donation], but there was an implication that they expect some sort of favorable treatment, possibly naming the center after me,” the 91-year-old Severance said.
S.D Ireland, developer of the southwest side of Severance Corners, also has land assets that could “change the equation,” town manager Dawn Francis said.
“Given the information we have today, we are recommending that it be located at Bayside Park. A land donation certainly could change that picture,” Francis said.
Severance and his wife, Gladys, both believe Bayside is the better location.
“When you think of Colchester, recreation-wise, Bayside Park is that hub of recreation in our community,” Cuttitta said. “With the proximity to the schools, it would really be a benefit to have the center there. It opens up the bay as a true contiguous property. We felt we could create that recreation destination that we are trying to achieve.”
The selectboard’s endorsement came with the caveat that community center plans are “subject to further public comment and refinement.”
“This is going to be a source of discussion for another year or two,” Francis said. “I envision much more in terms of public input.”
GreenPlay representatives will return to Colchester on September 27 for a master plan presentation for Bayside Park incorportating the undeveloped public acreage across Blakely Road.