While several Collegedale residents have come forward to request revisions to a new park planned by the city in cooperation with McKee Foods Corp., city commissioners have decided to move forward with the project.
The park, slated for 10 acres off Swinyar Drive, is being donated to the city by McKee Foods, owners of the Little Debbie snack cake brand.
During the biweekly commissioners meeting on Monday, various residents expressed that they, in general, thought the park was a good idea.
But while they were not opposed to the park and thought that the donation should be accepted, many addressed concerns about parking and traffic, asking the city to delay the start of construction to consider alternatives such as moving the park farther away from the road and providing better parking options.
"We are glad that there is a generous donor to help develop this land," said Debbi Ahlden, who said she represented residents of the neighboring Greenbrier Cove community.
" We ask that you take the time to make sure this park is a good - no, great - representation of our city, to take time to make sure that you can be proud of this park, take time to make sure that elements of this project are done well and that the city has covered itself legally with this project."
McKee park partnership
During Ahlden's comments, residents held up signs that read "no street parking" and "move playground." She also requested that the city investigate and report what maintenance costs would be for the city and assure that the donor would pay for all improvements to the park.
Interim city manager and city engineer Wayon Hines said that data from the state does support the current parking plan as a safer alternative to having perpendicular parking on the street. The parking will also be built into the land, rather than taking up space on Swinyar Drive, he said.
Vice Mayor Tim Johnson suggested a possible addition to the agreement to limit the deed responsibilities to 20 years. A study would then be conducted to determine how "successful" the park was to the city and residents' needs and then the agreement would be reevaluated.
The city attorney also mentioned that the city and McKee met recently to further clarify and solidify McKee's financial obligation to pay for the park and maintain any branded aspects. The city would be in charge of general maintenance and upkeep.
David Barto, executive director of the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation who served on the planning committee for the park, came forward to formally apologize for not pushing for more public and commissioner input during the planning process.
But Johnson said he would not accept Barto's apology, as he felt the issue was with former City Manager Ted Rogers, who announced his retirement a week after calls for his resignation or firing that came partially due to a lack of communication about park plans. Rogers said at the time that he was stepping down of his own volition, rather than because of any outside circumstances.
"Do I wish the playground could move?" Johnson asked. "I do, but after two and a half years, it's kind of in stone for the most part because there was a lack of communication to us and the citizens. It's pretty hard to go back and kind of rework. Part of the land down below is in a floodway, so we don't want to put a playground down there for safety purposes."
If all goes as planned, the city and McKee are expected to break ground on the project in the upcoming months with hopes to be completed by the end of the year.
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