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Park district explains details of survey process

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Neighbors skeptical their voices will be taken into consideration on arts/community center

By Vicky Gits

Neighborhood groups said they felt better about the park district’s upcoming community needs survey after hearing the board’s response to their concerns at a park district board meeting Feb. 23.

After the Feb. 9 joint meeting with the Center for the Arts board, some neighbors were worried the parks board had already decided to go forward with the arts/community center, without regard for the results of the future community survey.

The Tuesday night meeting started off to be a repeat of last summer’s citizen protest against a conceptual building program as outlined in the Buchanan Park master plan. But the protest fizzled into a “kumbaya moment,” as one individual put it.

Cindy Brown, vice president of The Trails at Hiwan Homeowners Association, said she interpreted the statements of board members as a definite change in direction and she felt that the concerns of her neighbors and the community at large would be taken into consideration in the needs assessment process.

Paul Robinson, president of The Ridge Homeowners Association, presented new survey results showing 71 percent of the people who answered a questionnaire were either opposed or strongly opposed to the idea of a community/arts center concept, among other things.

“It’s probably because Bergen Parkway is saturated with overuse already,” Robinson said.

The homeowner association mailed the survey to 411 homes and received 116 responses.

“I’ve been to a lot of meetings where individuals said something about the adverse impact of development in Buchanan Park. … We presented the issues a year ago. What is your process? Are you planning to meet with us, and what are your plans for giving us feedback?” said Dick Esser, a resident of The Ridge.

An open question

Whether or not to install a specific amenity depends on the response of the general community, said rec board member Roger Hoaglund.

“When we built Stagecoach Park, people envisioned curb-to-curb concrete. We tried to determine if we had general support. Then we talked to the neighbors about how to do it with the least impact,” he said.

“As a board, we have to be guided by the community as a whole,” said board member Janet Doyle, a resident of The Ridge. “If we are going to do this, we have to figure out how it’s least detrimental.”

Carl Watler, also of The Ridge, said the residents were being ignored. “The wheels are on the ground. Why is the study continuing to go on? The majority wants little or nothing built in the park,” he said.

But Doyle said building anything in Buchanan Park was still an open question and would be addressed in the upcoming community needs assessment, or CNA, a telephone survey of 1,000 randomly selected households.

“The CNA is absolutely necessary, and the results will go into the master planning process,” she said.

Board member Kit Darrow said the community needs assessment would be used to determine district priorities.

“This is the first community-wide needs assessment, and it’s my intention that we use it,” said Darrow, who has strongly supported the concept of directly addressing the arts center question in the study.

Feasibility in perspective

The idea of a combination arts/community center was the subject of a $37,500 feasibility study jointly commissioned in 2009 by both organizations to investigate the cost implications of building a combination arts/community center in Buchanan Park, although the district is in no position to finance such a venture.

Board member Peter Eggers stressed the importance of first determining what the community as a whole could support, as opposed to the opinions of a small segment. He later said the community survey needs to address the issue of whether a particular project or activity is the district’s responsibility.

“If the public is not in favor of expanding public/private partnerships that would influence how I feel about things,” he said.

Brown urged the board to deliver a copy of the homeowner surveys and comments to Responsive Management, the Pennsylvania company hired to do the study.

“We realize we are a small part of the community, but we don’t want to be ignored,” Brown said.

Contact Vicky Gits at 303-350-1042 or vicky@evergreenco.co