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Warminster Board Okays Start of WREC Closure

Negotiations will begin for the handing over of the property to Centennial School District. Current tenants will have five months to leave the premises.

The Warminster Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to bring the fate of the WREC Center to what township manager Rich Manfredi called it's "inevitable conclusion."

With the 5-0 approval from the board, Manfredi and township solicitor Mary Eberle will begin the process of of the property back to the . The remaining tenants that did not move to Leary last year will have until the end of the year to find new space for their operations.

Manfredi pledged to concerned resisdents that space for the Parks and Recreation Department's programs would be acquired. He cited the and as possible locations and said more options are under consideration.

"I think it is a fair assumption that we will find the space we need to continue these programs by the end of the year," said board vice-chairperson Tom Panzer.

The township needed to accelerate its search for an answer to the WREC question last spring when a few of the building's rent-paying tenants to Leary Elementary. The move cost the parks department a large chunk of revenue, to the tune of $119,000, Manfredi said Thursday night.

A was formed to analyze the situation and come up with options for the community center, while the township officials continued talks with the school district.

The township has spent the past few years attempting to work out an agreement with the school district that would remove reversionary interest clauses from the lease, but to no avail. Centennial officials inserted the clauses and deed restrictions on the property when it sold Hart Elementary to Warminster for $1 in 1988, Eberle said.

"Those reversionary clauses completely hamstrung the township," said Eberle. She said the school district could simply take the property back whenever it wanted, a possibility that prevented the township from making any major renovations.

An agreement was made in 2009 that would have Centennial remove the clauses for $1 million, a sum made up of $272,000 in permit and zoning fee waivers by the township and money from the Bucks County Open Space fund.

Eberle told supervisors Thursday night that an application for the open space funds was never submitted. A representative from the county told Eberle that the grant would have probably been denied anyway because a deed restriction already protected the open space on the property. Nonetheless, the waivers were still granted, and Eberle figures that money is owed back to the township.

"This is not a happy ending," said supervisor Frank Feinberg. "We had earnest negotiations with the school district, and we did everything we promised, but the school board just opted out."

During a review of the WREC's timeline, Eberle revealed that Warminster officials expressed interest in acquiring the property when it was put up for sale by the school district, along with and . Centennial representatives asked for more fee waivers in lieu of cash payment, but an analysis of the request by township engineer Craig Kennard showed that the waivers totaled up to more than $1 million.

Not long after, the school district of all three school properties to County Builders, Inc. for a grand total of $1.3 million, or approximately $450,000 per site.

As the parks department programs scatter throughout the township, board president Leo Quinn hopes the situation will springboard his vision of having a new centralized community center at Warminster Community Park. 

Even if the township managed to remove the interest clause from the lease, he said, they would still have the major expense of rehabilitating a 60-year old building. Now, the parks and recreation department can continue building its reserve fund, which Manfredi said is at approximately $1 million.

HONEST MOM September 15, 2012 at 01:22 AM
BTW I don't care if it's a tot lot, a playground, open space or a basketball court...I just think our kids deserve and need something in our section of the township not a walking trail! Again I would have gladly have attended the meeting if I had been notified like the people who attended. I suggested those that want to live in solitude since they are worried about the noise level might like a farm better:) No neighbors...no noise:)
MW September 15, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Yes, that's exactly what I said about not liking kids laughing and playing, I especially hate hearing my own. Seriously, don't put words in my mouth and call me sad. I find it sad that because someone has an opinion other than your own that you feel it okay to attack that person. And, sorry, I live in the real world where there has been vandalism in the parks. If you don't believe me, talk to the Park and Rec people, or the police chief for that matter. I do have faith in the kids in our neighborhood, which yes I do know many of them considering my children play and are friends with them (again, you put words in my mouth, seems to be a pattern), but it's not those kids that are the vandals. I'm talking about the kids who do go to these parks and playgrounds and destroy them viciously. As for living on a farm, I absolutely would have loved to, but unfortunately I am not rich so I did the next best thing by buying a house that was behind a farm. And again, I was very happy when the Park and Rec were able to secure the portion that happens to be behind my house. If I wanted a park or playground behind my house, I would have bought one there, but I didn't. And amazingly, I'm not the only one who wasn't crazy about the noise level rising behind my home, all of my neighbors shared the same opinion. I just feel fortunate that the Park and Rec actually had the respect to ask our opinion before going forward with any plans.
MW September 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
And as for the area between Davisville and Jacksonville having a park, McDonald was it. There was a navy base between those neighborhoods and Munroe and Werner, and the government wasn't very fond of people who didn't belong on it to be there. I know because I grew up there. And if you didn't care, you certainly have quite an opinion about it, which is fine, but atleast have the facts right.
HONEST MOM September 20, 2012 at 10:50 AM
MW I have not put words in your mouth. The following are yours. "I think one of the problems with the tot lot, besides the vandalism and lack of access for the emergency services, was the noise level." I'm sincerely sorry if you thought I was attacking you. I'm really not. I'm simply stating my opinion that I do think it's sad that the goodness that could come out of a tot lot for the many young families in our neighborhood is something you can't see. MW there will be vandals, noise in all aspects of life at one time or another but that doesn't mean it would happen in there. You are assuming the worse. I tend to see life as the cup half full not half empty. I believe it would have been a wonderful addition to our neighborhood. I too think it's very nice that Park and WREC asked the neighbors opinions before going forward. I just wish they would have included all the neighbors in the area. I've spoken to many neighbors over the past week and it seems very strange that not one person I asked received notice about this park meeting. Yes but even you had McDonald didn't you? The areas I mentioned are now open to those kids. What do the kids in this section have? There is nothing for kids! What I said above is that that I don't care what it is as long as it's for the KIDS. A walking trail is not for kids..that would be for the adults.
Tony Simek November 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Families with children have been leaving Warminster for a long time because of the school board's lack of priority towards students. I've known several families who have left over the years all because of school issues. My personal regret is that I moved here with school aged children. Now as I am nearing retirement it is clear that I have to rethink staying because of the costs. Somewhere on a website I think I saw "Warminster, A Great Place to Raise a Family". Definitely not living up to the billing.

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