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Westminster votes to create Wakefield Valley master plan aimed at creating ‘cornerstone’ of city parks

The City of Westminster is ready to take another swing at figuring out the future of the former Wakefield Valley Golf Club.

The Westminster Mayor and Common Council has unanimously approved the awarding of a bid to develop a Wakefield Valley master plan that “will provide a foundation for the future of phased development of the property so that it can serve as a cornerstone of the city’s park system,” said Abby Gruber, Westminster’s Recreation and Parks director.

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“The plan is intended to lay the groundwork for future grant applications to finance park improvements,” Gruber added during the council’s Sept. 14 meeting.

The request for bids went out July 10, and 19 bids came in, ranging from about $53,000 to $244,000. The council awarded the bid to Pennoni Associates Inc., a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, for $62,985. The funding was included in the city’s fiscal year 2021 capital projects fund budget and includes a grant award from the land and water conservation fund.

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Council member Tony Chiavacci said he was excited to get an opportunity to take a look at some potential uses for the property, but he also asked Gruber to consider giving the council updates throughout the process. He said the last thing he would want to see would be for the city and Pennoni to put in a lot of time and effort to produce a plan, only to find that it didn’t match the mayor and council’s vision for the property or that it was fiscally unreasonable.

Something like that happened once before.

Almost exactly four years ago, the Westminster Mayor and Common Council heard a proposal for the site that included several sports fields, indoor athletic space, educational space and gardens. The plan received extensive pushback from the public and ultimately went nowhere.

The more than 180-acre property was the site of Wakefield Valley Golf Club for some 35 years. The golf course closed in 2013 and was purchased the next year by a developer who donated it to Westminster. The city has since overseen the site, which is used as a park that includes several miles of trails and about a dozen ponds.

The Wakefield Valley Task Force was created to help formulate a plan for the site. The group heard five proposals for the property, cut the list to three and then asked those three developers to work together on a single proposal. That proposal never gained traction.

“That group did a lot of legwork,” said Chiavacci, who was a member of the council then, as now. “By the time we got to the end, obviously, it didn’t get the level of support, really, from the council or the community.”

Council President Gregory Pecoraro said he thought Chiavacci’s suggestion was a good one, and said those involved with developing the master plan might consider interviewing council members “to make sure we’re not getting too far outside of the realm of possibilities.”

Council member Ann Gilbert asked Gruber whether another committee would be involved in the development of the master plan.

“Currently what’s earmarked in the proposal is a public outreach plan that would involve the formation of a committee if, in fact, we felt like that was something that was needed to accomplish the work,” Gruber said.

The Wakefield Valley master plan bid was one of three awarded during the meeting.

Other bids approved

The Westminster Family Center — the subject of controversy about four months ago when the council directed staff to write fitness center services out of the budget, only to have the community react with a petition and numerous comments that earned the facility a reprieve — will be getting new shower rooms.

Gruber said the condition of both locker rooms has deteriorated and each shower area needs to be demolished. The request for bids went out on July 24, and 12 bids were received, ranging from around $69,000 to nearly $120,000. Staff recommended Andrews Construction Inc. from Baltimore, and the bid of $72,566 for the renovation was unanimously approved.

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“Long-awaited project. I’m sure that folks using the fitness center will be very pleased to have it completed,” Pecoraro said.

The council also awarded the bid for the city’s annual paving project. The unit price bid by C.J. MIller of Hampstead, not to exceed the amount of $722,950 for milling, grinding and roadwork necessary to complete the paving project was also unanimously approved.

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