Proponents of a controversial plan to expand the baseball park at Veira Park now are eyeing a site next to the town wastewater facility they hope will avoid the resistance from neighbors who feel that modifying the current site would create problems with traffic, parking and safety.
The applicant, Vineyard Little League, has yet to withdraw plans for Veira Park or submit new plans for the site next to the wastewater plant.
Several officials this week, however, confirmed that the group has approached several town boards and commissions about possibly changing locations.
Both the community preservation committee and town voters at town meeting have already authorized using $200,000 in community preservation act funds to expand the ball park at Viera Park. But following those votes, the plans have drawn criticism from neighbors who fear an expanded park is too big for the neighborhood and would create a wide range of problems.
In October, a group of Oak Bluffs residents filed a lawsuit against the town to block the release of the community preservation funds for the Veira Park expansion project. That complaint followed a decision by a superior court judge barring the city of Newton from using community preservation money to renovate two parks in that town.
Selectmen have since referred the Veira Park project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for a review as a development of regional impact.
Sam Berlow, president of Vineyard Little League, appeared before the community preservation committee on Feb. 19 to announce his group is now considering the new site next to the wastewater facility, commonly known as the Leonardo property, as an alternative site both for baseball and other recreational activities.
According to minutes of that meeting, Mr. Berlow told the commission the new site might be better both for little leaguers and neighbors. “[Mr. Berlow] cited several problems affiliated with the existing project that would be alleviated if the Little League field were to be moved,” the minutes state. “More land and less parking issues were mentioned . . . Mr. Berlow said [Vineyard Little League] was pursuing the idea with the town and the parks department.”
Mr. Berlow was off-Island this week and could not be reached for comment.
Richard Combra Jr., a member of the parks and recreation commission and the town highway superintendent, confirmed this week that Vineyard Little League has approached the town about possibly using the Leonardo property. He emphasized any such plans are still in the preliminary stages, but said the new site may have more to offer than Veira Park, which is framed on all sides by busy roads and is in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.
“Any plans are in the earliest possible stages, it’s really just a discussion right now . . . but there are advantages to [the Leonardo property]. There is more available space and there wouldn’t be as many problems with traffic or parking. There is a neighborhood nearby, but there is more of a buffer,” he said.
Mr. Combra also said the new site might also be used for an expanded recreational facility that could be used for other sports and outdoor activities.
Joe Alosso, town wastewater superintendent, said Vineyard Little League has spoken with the wastewater commission about using the Leonardo property. He said the site would need to be cleaned up, including the removal of many abandoned cars, before any such plans could move forward.
The town purchased the Leonardo property at a special town meeting last March. Voters agreed to appropriate $1.1 million to purchase three lots off Pennsylvania avenue for the possible future expansions of the wastewater plant. Mr. Alosso said a portion of the property could be used for possible expansions of the plant while another portion could be used for a recreational facility.
At the community preservation commission meeting earlier this month, members discussed the logistics of what it would take to shift the $200,000 already approved for the Veira Park project to the new site. One option discussed, according to the minutes, was to vote to rescind the previous appropriation and take another vote to designate the funding for the Leonardo property.
There is still no word on how changing sites would affect the current DRI review before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission or the pending lawsuit to block the release of community preservation money for the Veira Park site.