The Field of Dreams May Just Be a Better Version of What’s Already There
Having attended several City Council meetings and two Planning Commission meetings at which the plan to convert the grass field to turf at Nursery Field was outlined, discussed, and reviewed, I remain unconverted.
I have pored over countless reports and charts from many consultants, which assure the City and its residents that a turf field at that location will not increase flooding, the peak runoff rate, or the safety of nearby homeowners, even though City Planner Christian Miller noted at the Oct. 23 Planning Commission meeting that the field is within “the biggest flood zone in Rye.” And I return to one lengthy letter on the City website. It addresses my and many others’ concerns. The author of the March 5, 2020, letter is Laura Brett, who has served on the Planning Commission since 2012 and is a former City Councilmember.
Brett wrote: “As a member of the Planning Commission, I have three primary concerns about converting a grass field to a turf field. First, I am concerned that the City’s wetland protections will be undermined by putting a turf field in the wetland buffer. Second, building a turf field in a wetland buffer could impact the City’s ability to defend lawsuits when the Planning Commission occasionally denies wetland permits. Finally, building a turf field in a flood zone could put the City at risk for litigation with neighbors of Nursery Field if their homes experience flooding in future storms.”
She went on to emphasize that “the City should not apply a lower standard of review and approval for its own turf field project in a wetland buffer while simultaneously applying a more rigorous standard to other projects.” She continued, “Although the City may study the flood impacts and determine that flood impacts are non-existent….”
Since March 2020, residents in every part of the City have experienced flood impacts – superstorms, Hurricane Ida, heavier than normal rainfall – and that may be the new normal. Milton Road, right near Nursery Field, was closed to traffic during a recent heavy rain.
After listening to massive amounts of hydrological evaluation data, which translate into “a turf field will have no negative impact,” it was helpful at the Oct. 23 Planning Commission meeting to have City Engineer Ryan Coyne outline alternative locations for a soccer/lacrosse/field hockey field that he and Rye Recreation staff had studied. Regrettably, Gagliardo Park is too small; it’s difficult to put a rectangular field on what has served as a baseball field, but they looked at Founders and Sterling fields. Rec Park has possibilities, Coyne said, but it would require a significant reconfiguration of softball fields, and he is not convinced that replacing Rye’s best field with turf is the best solution.
He circled back to Nursery Field, noting that what it lacked was a crown of field in the center, and discussed how some of its deficiencies could be addressed.
The Planning Commission was asked by the City Council for a wetland advisory opinion on the Nursery Field project, and under the City Code the Commission is required to go through LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program), policy by policy. Chairman Nick Everett and his fellow Commission members, undaunted by the late hour at the Oct. 23 meeting, turned their attention to that task.
Nursery Field is not a project that can be rammed through; it will be on the agenda of the Planning Commission’s next meeting, Nov. 14.