The West U City Council has decided not to purchase three residential lots on Mercer Avenue for future parkland.
At the start of Monday night’s city council meeting, City Manager Michael Ross announced that the city would not be moving forward with parkland acquisition, following a discussion by council in closed executive session.
Council was expected to vote on purchasing three residential lots; 6522 Mercer, 6528 Mercer and 6532 Mercer.
Just two weeks ago, the council met in executive session to discuss parkland acquisition. Ross told InstantNewsWestU.com at the time that the city was continuing to look at cumulative properties that may make up a future park in the Mercer/Pittsburg area.
Ross told the news organization last night that the council has no plans to continue to pursue parkland acquisition.
“It has been taken off the table completely,” he said.
The city has been looking into parkland acquisition since 2005. In 2006, voters approved a bond election authorizing the city council to issue up to $2 million in municipal bonds to fund the acquisition and construction of a park or parks within the city provided that the park is located west of Buffalo Speedway and east of Auden. Those bonds have not been issued.
The council directed a parkland acquisition committee to continue to look for properties that could someday become a park in March of last year.
Ross told InstantNewsWestU.com that the decision to not move forward with purchasing residential lots for parkland had to do with public input that council received prior to Monday’s council meeting.
Council heard from 12 residents last night, some in favor of the city purchasing the lots on Mercer and some opposed.
Former Parks Board Chair Russ Schulze and former Parks Board member Mardi Turner both said they were disappointed that the item had been pulled from the agenda. Turner said she had polled houses in the area and found no big objections to the properties someday being a park.
Former Mayor and City Councilmember John Neighbors said in years past when the city acquired parkland, he couldn’t remember a time when there wasn’t opposition. He encouraged the council to keep thinking about parkland acquisition.
Parks Board Chair John Wilkinson said there appeared to be willing sellers and neighbors in favor of parkland acquisition and he encouraged council to continue to pursue it.
Some residents said they had concerns about the property that was being considered for parkland.
Gretchen Mazziotti said that her and her husband have two children and understand the importance of parks, but she had concerns. The three lots that the city was considering buying were in the middle of a residential block, not on a corner and were not visible.
John Godbold, a Mercer Street resident and a developer, said that it’s important to hear opinions from stakeholders and residents around the area. He said he was concerned because he heard about the city’s plans to purchase residential lots Monday afternoon. He also things parking will be a hard challenge to overcome.
“Let’s be clear and open how things are going to be done if you look at this again,” he said.
Stephen Schneidau, a Mercer Street resident, said that well thought out and planned parks add value to neighborhoods. He was concerned that a majority of the parkland is hidden from view.
Louise Bergeron, who also lives on Mercer, said she was concerned about the shape of the park and was worried about criminals coming up Poor Farm Ditch and kids playing in the ditch.