locally owned since 1854

End is in sight for Olmsted Rec Board; Lower Swatara, Middletown and MASD set to create MARA

By Phyllis Zimmerman, Special to the Press & Journal
Posted 6/20/18

Lower Swatara Township is a step closer to becoming a participating member of the Middletown Area Recreation Alliance.

On June 6, Lower Swatara Township commissioners gave a go-ahead to township …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

End is in sight for Olmsted Rec Board; Lower Swatara, Middletown and MASD set to create MARA

Posted

Lower Swatara Township is a step closer to becoming a participating member of the Middletown Area Recreation Alliance.

On June 6, Lower Swatara Township commissioners gave a go-ahead to township staff to prepare an ordinance for advertisement that if approved, would enable the township to participate in the Middletown Area Recreation Alliance, or MARA.

MARA is intended to replace the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board and will comprise representatives from Lower Swatara, the Middletown Area School District, and the boroughs of Middletown and Royalton. The four parties have approved a tentative agreement creating alliance bylaws.

The municipalities and the school district decided to dissolve the Olmsted Recreation Board because the program was “running out of steam,” then-Lower Swatara interim manager Frank Lynch said.

“(The township, boroughs and school district) wanted to create a viable recreation entity. MARA is intended to become a much more robust offering than Olmsted. It will be four entities working together and supporting each other,” Lynch said.

The new alliance could offer programs that are not available to residents through the Olmsted board, such as ballroom dancing, yoga, zumba, pickleball, soccer, volleyball, sewing and tennis. It also could offer bus trips to places such as New York City — something the Olmsted board used to offer, but has not in recent years.

The goal is for the programs offered through MARA to be self-sustaining financially.

The school district already has approved its participation in MARA and was waiting for all three municipalities to come on board, district chief financial officer David Franklin said on June 8. Middletown borough manager Ken Klinepeter reported that Middletown Borough Council approved DCNR's revisions to the intergovernmental MARA agreement and bylaws on June 5.

“Our current ordinance grants the manager the authority to delegate the operation of recreation programs to the Olmsted Recreation Board or any successor organization. However, our new solicitor is reviewing it to determine if it is adequate or if revisions are necessary for consideration at a future meeting," Klinepeter said.

On June 6, Royalton Borough Council voted on to advertise the ordinance that would allow the borough to join MARA if finalized, borough secretary Amy Burrell confirmed.

The next step in the overall process is the township applying for a state grant that would pay for the position of a MARA recreational director. The school district and Lower Swatara are working together on this, but Lower Swatara must serve as the grantee because school districts aren’t allowed to apply for this particular grant, Franklin said.

Organizers envisioned a startup date of July 1 for the new recreation alliance, but this may not happen exactly as planned.

“Everyone is hoping to have MARA operational as soon as possible, but we are seeking a grant to fund the recreation programs supervisor…. If approved, and we think we would be, we would need to advertise and hire a supervisor,” Franklin said. “MARA won’t be operational until there is a person in place to head it up.”

Rental unit concerns

In other news, several residents from the Woodbridge development voiced concerns to township commissioners June 6 about proposed rental units that would be built within the development.

On May 24, the township planning commission agreed with conditions to forward plans for review by the township commissioners for the construction of 32 townhomes on a parcel within the Woodridge development that was purchased by the Triple Crown Corp.

Township commissioners told the crowd that they couldn’t provide specifics about the layout of the plan because revisions hadn’t yet been submitted to the township. Township solicitor Peter Henninger confirmed, however, that the townhomes, as proposed, would be rental units.

Kori Weikle, president of the Woodridge Homeowners’ Association, stated, “90 percent of the complaints I get are because of the two (existing) rental properties in Woodridge. They don’t follow the rules.”

Beverley Watts, who has lived on Woodridge Drive since 1988, told township officials, “I have a problem with the rental of townhomes. They’ll face my property. It’s one thing for a family to move in there, but it’s another thing for four Penn State students to move in. My concern is that we’ll have an ‘Animal House’ situation.”

Henninger stated that township commissioners are legally required to review the proposal if it meets township ordinances. So far, it appears as a permitted use in a residential zone. “The board has no power to say no to rental units,” he added.

If plan revisions are submitted in time, township commissioners could begin reviewing the plan at their next scheduled meeting on June 20.