City swaps land with YMCA to build turf fields

The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously supported a land swap with the Woodruff Family YMCA, which will enable the city to construct two multi-purpose athletic turf fields on the land just south of the YMCA property at 631 Orange Avenue.
The vote at the July 7 P&Z meeting was for an 8-24 referral, which is an administrative procedure by which the P&Z endorses this change in ownership of city land. The matter moves to the Board of Aldermen at its Aug. 3 meeting for final approval. The YMCA Board of Directors also has to approve the land swap before it can happen.
With the intent of constructing ball fields, the city purchased the 3.3 acres of land at 605 Orange Avenue on Dec. 29, 2006 for $700,000 from Gary Novelli, who had been using the land as an apple orchard. That land is backed by an additional 5.7 acres of land between Gibson Street and Julia Court.
City Attorney Jonathan D. Berchem told the board, “The ideal design of these fields encroaches on the YMCA property.” Berchem said 2.7 acres of city land that form the driveway to the YMCA property will be swapped for 2.5 acres of YMCA land bordering the property where the fields will be constructed. According to city records, the YMCA has 24.3 acres of property.
“This is the best design we can come up with and the best path forward,” said Berchem.
According to the city assessor's database, the strip of land extends opposite Kozlowski Drive at Orange Avenue to opposite Branca Court at Burnt Plains Road.
Expressing support for the design, City Planner David B. Sulkis said he worked with Paul Piscitelli, city director of recreation, and YMCA representatives on plans for workable fields.
“There really wasn't a way of doing it without the fields being on YMCA land,” said Sulkis.