Franklin zoning approves special exception for recreation center

December 17, 2013
Andrew Berdat, an engineer with K-2 Engineering, shows plans for a recreation center proposed to be built by the Greene County Memorial Hospital Foundation on Oakview Drive in Franklin Township. - Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG - Plans by the Greene County Memorial Hospital Foundation to build a public recreation center large enough to contain an indoor soccer field, basketball courts, fitness center and multi-purpose rooms, were approved Tuesday by the Franklin Township Zoning Hearing Board.

The foundation, a nonprofit organization, plans to build a 45,000 to 51,800 square foot building on 7.6 acres of vacant land along Oakview Drive, across the street from the Waynesburg Lions Club’s baseball field.

The area is zoned R-1 residential. Under the township zoning ordinance, a recreation center is a special exception requiring board approval.

The foundation provides grants to other non-profit groups in Greene County that work to improve the health and well-being of county residents, said David Jones, foundation executive director.

It provides grants, for instance, to help fund local summer camps for youth and to purchase equipment for local fire companies. It also offers scholarships to students majoring in health-related fields and has renovated and operates the wellness center at Southwest Regional Medical Center.

About a year ago, Jones said, the foundation board began to ask itself what it could do to have a “bigger impact” in the community in line with its mission. The board began developing the idea of the recreation center. “There’s not a facility like this in all of Greene County,” he said.

The center will be multi-purpose and have features that can be used by all ages, Jones said. And it won’t just be for student athletes.

Its multipurpose rooms can be used for aerobics and educational program on subject such as diabetes and nutrition, and an indoor walking or jogging track will be available for those who don’t like using treadmills.

In response to questions from those in attendance, Jones said the center will probably be open the same hours as the hospital’s wellness center, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and with shorter hours on weekends.

The center also will include enough parking spaces to accommodate those who attend baseball games at Lions field across the street. In addition, minimal lighting will be used in the parking area at night when the center is closed.

Several residents had concerns about Oakview Drive, which they said is too narrow and should probably be widened to handle increased traffic. Jones said the foundation has discussed the matter with the township supervisors but so far nothing has been decided.

A “conceptual” plan of the project was presented by Andrew Berdar, an engineer with K-2 Engineering. To give a better idea of the size of the proposed building, Berdar said, he estimated it could contain up to five full-size basketball courts.

Berdar told the audience the line of trees at the rear of the building will be maintained as a buffer to homes on Park Avenue. He also noted that other uses for properties along Oakview Road are all for recreation. These include the Lions Club’s baseball field, park and playground and the county swimming pool.

The foundation has a purchase agreement with the Lions Club to buy the property. Ted Chapman of the Lions said the club was happy with the development and the sale of the property will provide the club with resources to continue to maintain its own recreational facilities along the road.

Before the board voted to grant the special exception, board chairman Jay Buckhalter noted that if approved, the foundation will still have to meet all requirements of the township ordinance and its conditions, covering the size of the building, setback requirements and possibly the width of Oakview Drive.

The cost of the building was estimated at $1 million. Jones said the foundation will fund the project with its own money but also plans to start a capital campaign to raise additional money for the project.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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