The City of Saline is moving forward with a plan to replace the Peoples Park tennis courts with a parking lot.
Saline City Council voted 5-1 to approve the Parks Commission’s recommendation to build the parking lot and a new tennis court south of the basketball court. Mayor Marl and Councillors Heidi McClelland, Jack Ceo, Dean Girbach and Linda TerHaar voted in favor of the motion. Councillor Janet Dillon voted nay. Councillor Christen Mitchell was absent.
Parking at Peoples Park, located on South Monroe Street, has been a longstanding issue for the city – especially during little league softball and baseball games. For years, people used the grassy field that was part of the Karpinski property. They continued to use the field when the city bought the property. But parking became an issue this summer after the city sold the property to developer Damien Farrell.
Many people used the Annie’s Day Care parking lot, causing issues at the business. Others parked on Monroe Street, prompting concerns about safety.
The city originally planned to build a parking lot between Annie’s and a residential home. Neighbors who wanted to preserve green space opposed the plan and began attending parks commission meetings to influence the decision.
The Parks Commission reached consensus on a proposal they felt improved the parking situation, recognized the need to preserve greenspace, and preserved a neighborhood tennis court – although it would be just one court instead of two.
Not all neighbors were happy with the proposal. Jon Coleman lives on Monroe Street. He voiced opposition during public comment. He said one role of government is to balance the supply and demand of city amenities with citizens’ desires. He said that nobody attending the parks commission meetings, other than city employees, expressed a desire for parking at Peoples Park.
“Demand for the existing amenities as they stand far exceed for existing parking at Peoples Park,” Coleman told council.
He suggested the city should spend its money maintaining existing park infrastructure rather than build new infrastructure which will require higher maintenance costs.
Councillor Ceo said parking has long been a bone of contention at the park. He said the issues go back to his day as a little parent and as Deputy Police Chief.
“I believe there is a need, that’s why I am moving the motion,” Ceo said.
At the council table Councillor Dillon was the lone opposition to the parking lot. She questioned the wisdom of removing two tennis courts and/or green space for parking lots that are used two months a year. She questioned whether Saline youth softball and baseball teams had been approached to help fund the $37,000 project
Scruggs said that the parking lots are for all parks users – and not just little league parents.
Scruggs also noted that the tennis court was cracked and that repairs were substantial. Crack fills cost $10,000 previously and Scruggs was not sure that crack fills were enough to keep the courts safe and playable.
Council expressed some hesitation about the second part of the proposal – building the second tennis court. Scruggs was unable to provide an estimate for the cost of a new tennis court, which made Councillor Girbach leery.
“I am supportive of the parking lot. We did make the decision to sell the Karpinski property. Whether that comes back to us is still up for debate. My concern about putting in a new tennis court is that we don’t have a cost yet.”
Girbach said it might be better to just have green space instead of a tennis court. He asked if a court is necessary at Peoples Park. Scruggs said it is.
“A lot of people use it there,” she said. “We don’t want to lose this amenity. We feel it’s an important part of the park.”
There are other tennis courts in the city parks, including Tefft Park and Curtiss Park.
DPW Jeff Fordice noted the court at Curtiss Park floods often, which causes more cracks and failures.
“If you want to maintain a tennis facility, I suggest you do it somewhere else than a flood plain,” Fordice said.
Scruggs said the courts at Tefft Park, behind the Rec Center, are in great shape.
There are also courts at Liberty School and Saline High School.
Mayor Brian Marl that the tennis court at Peoples Park would need council approval again in the future.
“For the record I am in favor of transitioning the tennis courts to a parking lot. I’m somewhat ambivalent on the creation of an additional tennis cart. I accept the notion that the amenity does exist elsewhere in the City of Saline. As a matter of public safety I believe we need the parking lot,” Marl said.