After a group of residents spoke in opposition to plans for a parking lot at People’s Park, Saline City Council assigned the matter to the city’s Parks Commission.
About a dozen residents from the neighborhood, near Monroe and Henry streets, attended the meeting Monday. They were concerned after learning about plans to build a 25-vehicle parking lot which would be located to the south of Annie’s Children’s center.
Developers are building condominiums at 207 S. Monroe St., on property that for more than 20 years was used as parking by parents of little league baseball players. Parents are now parking on the road along South Monroe Street, which has city officials concerned about safety.
Residents in the neighborhood were already concerned by the Fairdene development, a 30-unit condominium project squeezed into once city-owned land adjacent to the park. When they learned of plans to remove green space for a parking lot, they mobilized.
Six neighbors of the park addressed city council Monday night and presented Mayor Brian Marl with a petition signed by more than 40 residents.
Karen Carrigan lives near the corner of Henry and Monroe streets. She said people use Peoples’ Park for dog walking, jogging, watching wild life and playing with young children. Removing green space will make it tougher for people to enjoy the park. She also noted that on-street parking (on Monroe Street) has been sufficient when little leaguers are in action, with people parking no further than 100 feet from the entrance of the park.
Monroe Street resident Cindy Coleman said Peoples’ Park isn’t very large to begin with. She reminded council that the people who will move into the nearby condos will also use the park.
Henry Street resident Andy Hatfield suggested the city allow parking on both sides of Henry Street.
“It would calm traffic and it’s very close to Peoples’ Park,” Hatfield said.
He cautioned the city against paving too much of the town.
Monroe Street resident Tom Beltman suggested using the tennis court for parking.
“We could convert the tennis court into parking. I don’t see it used too often and it’s already paved,” Beltman said. “If safety is a concern for parking on Monroe Street, maybe some of the city’s resources could be spent on speed control. There’s a lot of speeding on Monroe Street.”
Monroe Street resident Kathy Rhadigan said that when residents met to discuss nearby Salt Springs Park, one of the most common goals was to keep the park in its natural state. She said there should be a similar goal for Peoples’ Park.
Another resident said she chose to move to her Henry Street residence because of all the nearby green spaces.
“That little cute park in the middle of all the residential really makes it much more inviting for all the neighbors to get out and congregate. I would suggest park benches there. And if you need some walkway from the street, put a little path in,” she said.
City Manager Todd Campbell explained the history of the little league parking at Peoples’ Park.
From 1996 to until they time Saline purchased the property, the city leased space from the owners of the Karpenski property (now being developed with condominiums). In 2008, the owners of the property increased the price of the lease and the city considered not paying. But Saline Area Youth Baseball and Softball helped pay for the lease. In 2011, the city bought the property. When the city began talks to sell the property to a developer, it hoped to keep control of an easement to allow vehicles to access the baseball diamonds. But the developer needed all the property for the condominiums.
Campbell suggested the city parks staff meet with residents at SAYBS officials to discuss options.
Mayor Marl said it would be improper for city council to take any action on the issue without allowing the city parks commission to have a robust discussion on the issue.
Councillor Heidi McClelland, the council’s liaison to the parks commission, agreed.
“There are multiple things to think about when we’re talking about access to the park and the green space. The parks commission is very thoughtful about other parks and how they should function and how they impact neighborhoods,” McClelland said.
The parks commission meets at 7 p.m. March 16.
McClelland urged concerned residents to attend the meeting or reach out to herself or parks commission chairman Neil Moorman.
Councillor Christen Mitchell said she’s talked to people in the community who want a parking lot and who want the green space.
“I’ve had a fair number of people who say they were surprised by the information. I wonder if there’s a better way to talk to people or make people aware about issues such as these,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t want to be surprised by something happening in my neighborhood.”
McClelland noted the city recently held a public forum about Salt Springs Park and said that neighbors received invitations.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked about Annie’s Children’s Center and their parking lot. Campbell said the preschool allows people to use parking after hours.
Dillon wondered how much parking is really needed.
“We’re talking about one ballfield here. We’re talking about two teams of kids. Maybe 30 car loads of kids. What do we need for parking and how often do we need it?” Dillon asked. “That park seems to be more of a neighborhood park, that people walk to, more than going to ball games. I’m not sure having a full-time parking lot is in the best interest of that area.”
Councillor Jack Ceo said his son played baseball at Peoples’ Park 25 years ago. Even then parking was an issue, he said.
Councillor Linda TerHaar said if a parking lot is required, the city should consider using “permeable pavement,” to reduce the amount of runoff that streams into the city’s sewers.