3/7/2017 12:00:00 PM Councilwoman responds to City on park issue
By Mary Sue Rowland City Council at Large
In all due respect, I would like to respond to the "city side" of the story concerning the development of Seminary Park. As sometimes happens, memories become faded and I might note that the Mayor was not at the meeting yet he has listened carefully to one side of the story.
The Park Board meeting and presentation did not meet any of the standard "Executive Session" rules. Steve Cooke noted several times that discussion of the project had been held on multiple occasions with business people, Council and others. Steve had informed me at a public ribbon cutting about a month earlier. Once discussion happens, nothing is confidential. The materials handed out at the meeting were allowed to go out of the room, again not confidential.
The staff did not provide a pro and con presentation about the project.
Only the development side was discussed and the "next step" action printed on the presentation gave the impression this project was on a fast track.
In fact I noted several times during the discussion that the Park
Board should be advised of good planning trends concerning green space and neighborhood parks so a balance could be discussed and presented.
The staff never took the conversation to that level. The discussion from staff was that the park was unutilized and they never see anyone in the park as they drive by. It was noted that on the staff lunch hour they would prefer other locations for their lunch than Seminary Park.
The writer of the article in the Times had acquired a copy of the presentation (not from me) but did have a copy. The problem is that the city just moved forward with the rail to trails without any community conversation and the Pleasant Street project also still has some concerns about citizen conversation. In conclusion, the writer did have some good information. I received a call from The Editor at the Times newspaper (I did not call the Times) and I held a conversation and answered her questions as best I could. I told her to call the Mayor and others to get more information. I am sorry she did not follow that suggestion.
I believe the council member discussed in the article by the city is me.
Mayor Ditslear and I did have a conversation on Friday at which time he told me again that he was not sure about the project. I asked if he had seen the presentation presented to the Park Board by staff and he said he had not.
The Mayor told me the same thing on Tuesday when I asked his position on Seminary Park. His answer was he was not sure. I am glad to hear through this communication that other areas are being reviewed. The development project is important for the city but not at the Seminary Park location.
Since it appears that I was so important in the article presented by the city, that someone from the city could have sent me an email or phone call to advise the project is moving to another location yet to be determined.
The presentation had been discussed with many other community leaders before the Park Board meeting according to Steve Cooke himself. There was not confidential information that others did not already know.
This is not a "leak" and should never been suggested as a "leak."
Again, this comment is directed to me and I have never "leaked anything but with the presentation already shared, the fast track timeline and the meeting not following a executive session rule, I did contact a neighbor in the area of Seminary Park to advise him of the project. That information was sent by the neighbor to Noblesville
Preservation Alliance, not by me, as was suggested by Steve Cooke.
I have a story at the Hamilton Reporter that has been held because the city asked for the paper not to print my story until a city story could be published at the same time. The paper has held the story for almost 7 days.
In the meantime, the Times learned of the city action. It is hard to understand that the most historic city in Hamilton County and one that often talks about its history would even consider such a proposal from a developer affecting a city park.
I have concerns that others do not understand the past efforts of so many within the community who have worked hard for decades toward promoting our history and preservation efforts. If it was understood, the developer would not have made the offer and the city would not have moved forward with the proposal to take park land for development. The promotion of the importance of preservation and history still needs work.
I believe this can become a positive outcome for the community. It would seem important at this time to establish an ordinance to keep
Seminary Park a Park forever with no possibility of development. It also seems appropriate to upgrade the park with park furniture, a new gazebo, maybe even a basketball court or two and who knows what? Another conversation is in order with the Park Board and the community to rethink Seminary
Park with enhancements, landscaping, furniture and things to do. A nice plaque would be nice telling the story of Seminary and its 1871 history. If anyone in the city thinks people are going to leave their neighborhood to take their children to Federal Hill Commons to play, I believe most people would decline the offer. It's over but not done ... more work needs to be done to find available land for the developer so a great project can become part of the old town fabric and Seminary Park needs the attention it and the neighborhood deserves. I would be remiss not noting the southside park is still in need of attention. Old Town city parks are important and should be on par with the new parks finished and still to be finished.
It is too bad that the city has not been able to take the community comments and concerns to a more positive outcome. People like to think they are being heard and the Seminary Park issue was a test by the community members and the elected officials to see if there is agreement on the future plans for the city. It will always remain important to keep communication open and listen to the citizens, who by the way, pay the bills.