PALM VALLEY — If a new park is developed along Jack Nicklaus Drive, it likely won’t have playground equipment or adult outdoor exercise machines.
About 25 local residents made their voices known Tuesday night, most of them stating they would prefer to see the small 1-acre city-owned lot on the southwest side of the community remain green space or just include some benches, trees and shrubs to beautify the location.
City officials appeared to heed their message loud and clear.
Longtime resident Rollins Koppel wants to fund a park in his city and is interested in giving about $100,000 for its development.
But on Tuesday, city officials agreed to go back to Koppel to adjust and negotiate further his offer for the monetary donation.
The hang-up was the inclusion of possible playground and adult exercise equipment following negotiations between Koppel and the city’s attorney, Jason Mann.
In what at times was a free-for-all discussion between the city council and the audience, those who opposed the agreement on the agenda for possible action were clear in what they disagreed with – the inclusion of playground equipment.
John Topp, the city’s chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee, voiced his personal opinion of the park plan.
His backyard is along the line of the proposed park and he and his family are against locating a park like this in that area.
Topp cited increases in city insurance for equipment and safety issues due to a lack of parking on the narrow street.
“I don’t want a place for the neighborhood to get together in my backyard,” he said.
Others spoke about the plan, citing the likelihood of reduced property values for those in the immediate area if there is a playground in the park.
Some said there would be no way to control the people who would come to the park and there is the likelihood people from other areas may utilize the park, too, adding additional concerns.
Residents in the audience also blurted out questions and statements to the board, too, sometimes in an adversarial tone.
A pair of local residents asked where the parents of the children who would use the playground equipment were. They agreed, those people weren’t in attendance at the meeting.
“How many of you would vote for this if it were in your neighborhood or backyard?” shouted a woman from the audience toward the council.
It was clear Mayor George Rivera remains in favor of a park and also believes the demographics of Palm Valley are evolving to a younger crowd, ones with children who would use a park like this.
“I don’t understand, but I respect the opposition,” he said. “I didn’t run (for mayor) to keep Palm Valley complacent. I want to build a better city.”
But, then Rivera explained what he saw as the future of the small park.
“I want to see something very nice, appropriate and attractive,” he said. “That’s what I envision.”
He talked about foliage, benches, bushes, trees, a walking path and boulders.
Council member Joe Jones said the park “would be an asset, not bothersome to anyone.” He said he would be against any type of playground equipment there.
Fellow council member John Widger agreed. He said he wouldn’t be willing to agree with a document that states there could be playground or adult exercise equipment in that location.
“We appreciate the offer,” Widger said of Koppel’s offer to fund a park. “But not the way this is written. It includes too much.”
But, Widger said it was important to not “kill” the idea or the donation, for that matter.
“This is very generous,” he said.
All agreed this was not the right location for playground-type equipment.
After about 45 minutes, the council agreed on a 4-1 vote, with Cissie Nesmith the lone dissenter, to have Mann go back and talk further with Koppel about removing the equipment from the agreement.
Council member Julie Martin suggested creating a small park similar to the one that is on Polo Circle. Council members agreed that would be more in line with the survey results and what those in the audience agreed with.
Topp, who said he has spoken to Koppel and discussed the survey results with him, said Koppel doesn’t want to build anything the residents of Palm Valley don’t want.
But, Koppel also wants to “do something for the children,” Topp said.
Jones said he was sure Koppel would agree to the new terms.
“We are not approving anything, we are just seeing if we can come up with something before we turn down the money,” Rivera said.
Tuesday’s discussion came on the heels of last month’s discussion about results of a survey sent to Palm Valley residents about what was desired for the city lot.
A survey was sent to 677 Palm Valley residents and returned by 158, a solid return rate of 23 percent.
According to some, results clearly show residents of the city and the immediate area near the proposed park would rather it remain what it is – a green belt or bird and butterfly area.
A total of 44 percent of those who responded wanted the property left as is.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents from the immediate area where the park is located wanted it left as green space.