On Monday evening, The Newberry City Commission evaluated plans for three different park projects that have been proposed for construction in the city.
The first two, Triangle Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, will be funded by Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP), a county-wide one-half cent sales tax program that was approved by voters in 2008.
City Manager Keith Ashby said that the city was given around $475,000 to work with and after purchasing the land for the community center for $15,000, it ended up with $460,000 for both projects. He said that since WSPP is a two-year program that will end in December, there will not be much more money coming in from it.
Upon request of the commission, Paul Stressing, of the architecture firm Stressing and Associates, focused on ways that the projects could be scaled back to work with the limited funds. He presented the commission with a shopping list of different features that could be added or deducted from the master plans of the two parks.
Stressing provided five different options for Triangle Park, ranging from the most expensive at $511,500, to the least expensive at $271,000. The options showed the price changes that would come about by including or excluding elements of the park such as an amphitheater, a 24-space parking lot, a playground, picnic pavilions, a pond, bathroom facilities, grills, benches, nature trails and a garden area.
Commissioner Lois Forte said that she envisioned the park as a place where family reunions and birthday parties would take place. She said that she was not willing to lose important parts of the park like the playground and the picnic pavilions.
“I have been trying and trying since ’86 to get this park,” she said.
Stressing presented two different options for the community center. The first was 4,000 square feet and would cost $400,000. It had a parking lot, a sidewalk and an outside pavilion in the front. The building included a wrap-around porch, a computer area, a kitchen and a lounge. The second option was 2,692 square feet and was priced at $296,200. It cut costs by eliminating the computer center, pavilion, parking lot and sidewalk.
Stressing said that his estimates for both projects were on the high end and did not take money that could be saved by community donations into consideration. Still, as Commissioner Farnsworth commented at the Aug. 23 commission meeting, it seems that the city has the money for one project and is trying to build two.
“You’re going to have to bite the bullet with this one and come up with your priorities,” Ashby told the commission.
A different kind of a park was the subject of discussion at a board of adjustment meeting held immediately after the commission meeting. Commissioners heard plans for an RV park that would go in next to Nations Ballpark. The commission granted a conditional zoning exception to Barry and Carlene Green, the owners of the 88-acre property where the park is planned to be built.
Mike Shuler was at the meeting to speak on the behalf of the Greens. He said that the park is being designed to accommodate visitors who will come to town for the ballpark and other local attractions such as the Eastern Newberry Sports Complex, Gatorback Cycle Park, Canterbury Equestrian Showplace and Gator football games.
Shuler said that the park would be built in three phases and would eventually have 245 units. He said they plan for it includes a clubhouse, a laundry room, a pool, showers and batting cages.
“A park like this is well-setup to accommodate the shortcoming needs that we’re getting ready to face if Nations Ballpark does go through,” Shuler said.
Some residents who live near the future sites of the parks came to the meetings to voice their concerns about problems that could arise.
Wendy DeVito said that she was worried about the safety of pedestrians who will be walking down the road to get to the ballpark. She strongly encouraged the commission to make sure there was a trolley system to take people to and from the park.
Jordan Marlowe, whose family farm is nearby where the parks will be built, said that he was concerned about the extra traffic that the ballpark will bring.
“I’m going to have a lot of people honking at me when I’m trying to get my hay down the road,” he said.
Marlowe also wanted to know if there would be buffers for the noise and lights that would come from the park. He said that while he did not want to stand in the way of progress, he was “worried about keeping the look and feel of Newberry, which is agriculture.”