Council rejects Ames as skate plaza site and then rejects Park Board from further planning

Northfield City Council 2009 It was no surprise to me that the Northfield City Council voted 5-1 tonight to reject Ames Park as the location for the skate plaza. Betsey Buckheit was the only one to vote in favor of it. The real surprise was in the post-vote discussion where they opted to take over the criteria setting and planning process for a skate park location from the Park & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB). I briefly chatted with PRAB Richard Vanasek after the meeting who seemed stunned by the latter.

Even though Councilors were “provided with copies of all the PRAB discussions regarding the Skateboard Plaza dating from May 8, 2006 through the Special PRAB meeting of April 21, 2009”, some seemed bothered that there was no written record of how the PRAB eliminated various parks from consideration.

Jim Pokorney argued for taking over the lead at the Council level since the NIMBY factor on this issue is so strong. He indicated that the Council should select the site and the PRAB would then be charged with implementation. Rhonda Pownell also argued strongly in favor of taking over the process. Mary Rossing asked her fellow Councilors to consider the role of the PRAB but didn’t argue strongly for or against.

I think this is a very ominous turn of events and a bad move on the Council’s part.

I was hopeful of a collaborative decision when the PRAB asked the Council to delay a decision in May (see my comment here that contain Mayor Rossing’s letter).  She wrote:

At a later date it will be important for the PRAB and the council to come to the table together with a clear public statement about priority and then establish a funding strategy.

But the Council rejected this (I saw it as a bit of an olive branch) and opted to vote anyway. And now they’re running the risk of compounding the bad vibes with the PRAB by eliminating them completely. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some PRAB members resign over this if the Council continues down this path.

I’ve been critical of the PRAB’s lack of communication about their process. And I understand the Council’s increasing discomfort about how long this issue is taking to resolve.

But why not ask the PRAB for details on why each park was rejected?

Why not ask the PRAB for a hurry-up recommendation on their second choice for a skate park location?

It’s not too late.

83 Comments

  1. Tracy Davis said:

    Hmmm…. I need to keep my ear to the ground to gather more info.

    On one hand, it’s nice to have a council that appears to have some guts. Something like the skate park IS potentially controversial, and prone to NIMBYism (maybe ESDWE-NIMBYism in particular).

    However, one of the Council’s stated goals is to make better use of boards and commissions. The Park board has been extremely conscientious and hardworking for many years, and has a lot to their credit. Cutting them out of the policymaking process seems ill-advised move on the part of the Council, not to mention the fact that doing so may contradict one of their stated goals.

    On the other hand, as the policymaking body of elected officials, they DO have to take the heat for decisions made, so tackling the skate park issue from the top down might make sense.

    On the other hand (working my way up to octopus status), expending council time/energy on a skate park when there are so many larger, more significant issues with extended long-term ramifications (budget, land use, new business park, to name a few) seems like a drain of resources and brainpower the City can’t afford right now.

    June 1, 2009
    Reply
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: Throughout this long and arduous, no… torturous process, the PRAB has made clear why certain parks were not considered, or dropped from consideration.
    When the council says that is not so, they are admitting either their lack of following the process at the time or their deaf ears, because they’re not getting the outcome they wanted.

    I think you are wrong to suggest that there might be resignations over this; that was my first angry thought also, BUT what I hope is that at the PRAB’s next meeting they rise up with a resolution asking the council how dare they remove the board from their stated charge when they (PRAB) have complied with every direction from the council, going over and over the same ground (no pun intended) and their only failure was coming up with a recommendation that the council didn’t like.

    I am remembering Margit Johnson’s famous resignation to the council over their refusal to accept the Planning Commission’s Target decision. She spoke of the council’s use of their vote as a blunt instrument of force to override the honest decisions of the Planning Commission… we’ve seen it again tonight…Respect your boards and commissions until they won’t rubber stamp the decision you favor, and then it’s take the decision of even the site away from them, as if they were not competent to make that decision.

    No… I don’t want a single one of that board to resign in anger or disgust or frustration; I want them to take their case to the public, and also to ask the council what they did to have their decision taken from them, except have a different preference than the council.

    If the council wants to not accept the recommended site, and refuses to build the skateboard park there that’s one thing, that’s on the council’s shoulders; but to say we will make the site decision because obviously PRAB can’t, and then to say but after we the council have made the decision, we’ll send it back to them to work out the details? Well, how much more insulting can you get?

    Don’t resign, Park Board members… take your case to the public, and fight!

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Posted to the Nfld News site last night: Skatepark goes back to the drawing board.

    The council at its Monday, June 8 work
    session will discuss criteria for a
    new site selection process, establish
    a method for choosing a site and
    whether the entire council should make
    the determination or ask a council
    subcommittee to bring back a
    recommendation for the council to vote
    on.

    The council decided it should make the
    recommendation and the selection, but
    will take input from the Northfield
    Skatepark Coalition and other
    interested groups and persons.

    Are members of the PRAB “interested groups and persons”?

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  4. Patrick Enders said:

    I’m glad to see our elected leaders taking the lead on this decision. The PRAB can and should advise, but the decision is rightfully ours – through the leaders we have elected to make such decisions.

    Many of our elected councilpersons had stated opinions (IIRC) about the location of a skate park when we chose them as our leaders. It is one of the factors that we may (or may not) have used in selecting our leaders. To ignore the platform that we elected them on, and instead defer to an unelected set of advisors, would of course be their prerogative. However, it should not be an expectation.

    Kiffi,
    You wrote:

    …because they’re not getting the outcome they wanted.

    Yep. As it should be.

    Tracy, you wrote:

    On one hand, it’s nice to have a council that appears to have some guts. Something like the skate park IS potentially controversial, and prone to NIMBYism (maybe ESDWE-NIMBYism in particular).

    Very yep. These leaders (and in taking on this project one, they deserve the title) are showing a willingness to step up and make a big, necessary, and inevitably controversial, decision. This is also a decision for which they will rightly be held accountable.

    Kiffi, you wrote:

    to say we will make the site decision because obviously PRAB can’t, and then to say but after we the council have made the decision, we’ll send it back to them to work out the details? Well, how much more insulting can you get?

    Actually, it sounds like a very good use of an advisory board.

    Choosing a site for a skate park is not rocket science. It’s not a question of grading, or water supply, or other great expertise. The hard part about siting a Skate Park is the political decision in the face of inevitable opposition. It’s good to see this decision in the hands of accountable politicians, rather than in the hands of an appointed/volunteer advisory board.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  5. kiffi summa said:

    This is a prime example of the NON-reporting of the NNFNews: They do not come right out and say that the council took the matter of the site selection for a park out of the Park Board’s hands( because they did not agree with the Park Board’s decision) and decided that they would make this decision themselves. That simple fact that happened at the meeting is not stated.

    What other matters do you think it is possible have had important clear facts omitted?
    What is the reason for this incomplete reporting?
    The council’s process was the single most unusual thing that happened at this meeting.
    A newspaper is supposed to report the salient aspects of an event; not their personal version of it.

    Griff: you know I don’t always agree with you, but you did the reporter’s job, and spoke with the Park Board chair out in the hall ; did the NFNews reporter get the reaction quote from Dr.Vanasek?

    The anonymous sock-puppets/trolls at the NFNews website will be saying that things are “muddy and murky” over at locally grown… Looks to me like that’s where people will have to go to find the omitted facts.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Kiffi,
      The non-reporting you decry was in fact covered by the sentence:

      The council decided it should make the recommendation and the selection, but will take input from the Northfield Skatepark Coalition and other interested groups and persons.

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    An insightful quote from Rhonda Pownell in the Nfld News:

    Councilor Rhonda Pownell chided those who have argued against putting the park near residences, saying that a skatepark should be located near other youth-driven activities.

    “There is a lot of fear driving this decision and how the youth would behave if it was not located near the Safety Center … that is unfounded,” she said.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: you and I could never agree on the actions of the NFNews. The sentence you quote does not have the words Park Board , or acronym PRAB within its text. Good factual journalism is exemplified by over-specificity, not the NON-specificity that you quote.

    On another point:You make much use of the words”leaders” and “accountable politicians”… On one hand we are told, in the midst of a budget crisis, that the building official is “laid off”, ostensibly by the explanation to save 10K $$…
    On the other hand we have the council spending 12-18K$$ on a Master Park Plan for Ames Park, options A,B, and C, all showing the various locations for the skate plaza, which by their historic votes, ongoing votes, and campaign rhetoric, never intended to approve building at that site.

    Please explain the “leadership” and “accountable politicians” positions you see taken in that comparison.

    Oh , and P.F’in S. as David Mamet would say: You may not understand that a clerk was hired to process building , rental, permits when the building permits were ‘hot and heavy’; if the BO position was to be eliminated as a cost savings during a time when building permits had dwindled, wouldn’t you think it would be the processing clerk (salary more than 10K) who would have been eliminated ? as our regulatory NF laws, code etc, say that we must have a BO position?

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  8. Rob Hardy said:

    I hate ever to disagree with you, Kiffi, but I do this time. You say that the Council is bypassing the PRAB because the PRAB didn’t give them the result they wanted. From looking at the reports of the two consultants (hired at what cost?), it’s clear that the consultants were also ignored because they didn’t give the PRAB the result they wanted. Both consultants, for good reasons, favor Memorial Park.

    Gene Allen Design: “[Memorial Park] has the most going for it.”

    Brauer and Associates: “As I stated at various public meetings, everything being equal, Memorial Park is a hard site to pass up…”

    The consultants cited the “synergy” of the Memorial site, its social atmosphere, the presence of other youth activities with supervision (the pool), and its location away from traffic. Gene Allen Design concluded: “If there are concerns about the impact of a skate park [in Memorial Park], they are minimal.”

    All of this was ignored because the PRAB was determined not to site the skatepark in Memorial Park. Why? Because there was already a Memorial Park master plan that doesn’t include a skatepark? I want to know more about how that plan was developed. Was it primarily the result of a small group of neighbors exerting pressure to keep a skatepark out?

    It’s been noted, in favor of Ames, that it’s near the Safety Center (although that might move) and the police. Memorial is in a residential neighborhood. Surely, Kiffi, you would be the last person to say that Northfield’s youth are a problem for the police, rather than fellow Northfielders whose activities should be integrated with the rest of the community.

    I’m fine with turning the process over to our elected councilors, who represent the various wards of Northfield and might therefore be less susceptible to the NIMBYism of a particular ward.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
    • kiffi summa said:

      Rob : I completely agree with your assessment of the consultants’ perspectives as to Memorial park, and also your evaluation of the ParkBoard and councils original decision’s regarding Memorial Park. It should be remembered that Dennis Easely, a PRAB member who lives by Memorial Park, stated over and over, clearly, that he was supportive of the Memorial Park location.
      I think that parks removal from consideration was clearly a result of NIMBY/ neighbors prevail.

      I have always believed that MP was the best location, because that was the one the kids, the users, felt would be most successful.

      However, when MP was completely removed from the process, and it was, I looked at Ames as a very good solution, and actually having some econ development potential for DT, as well as making use of a space that is totally underutilized except as a goose field, and also because the skateplaza’s low profile (everything under 4′) did not obstruct the great view of the DT from the highway intersection.

      What I object to, vociferously, is the council’s disrespect in their process last night. Saying that the PRAB had not been able to come to a decision or deal with the problem in three years, is a complete mis-statement of fact. The fact is, that although they had already been through a detailed process, the council and the PRAB did simply not agree on a location.
      That is the council’s prerogative, i.e., to disagree with the advice of an advisory committee.

      However, what a difference it would have made if instead of saying they(council) would now make the decision the PRAB had “not been able to reach”, they had said : we cannot support your recommendation with our vote; therfore we are asking you if there is NOW, considering our NO vote, another site that you can recommend as a second choice?

      That’s not the way it was handled.

      I agree that the council SHOULD be able to make a decision WITHOUT nimby concerns…

      Would anyone like to take bets on whether the site discussion goes back to Memorial Park?
      Tune in to the work session discussion next week…

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
  9. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi,
    You claimed that this was an example of “non-reporting.” This was patently untrue, as I easily showed.

    Reporting is not an effort to report everything that happens, or everyone’s opinion on what happens. It is the process of distilling things down to an appropriate and digestible size that captures the essentials.

    For some dedicated and interested individuals, a more detailed and comprehensive report like the one you propose might be useful. For others, the Nfld News’s concise and accurate report will be more than adequate. Most everyone in the former group knows where to look (LGN, NTV, LWV, etc.) to get more information on the subject than is contained in the brief but accurate Nfld News account.

    On your “another point,” how about you post that over on the appropriate thread, where it could be discussed without distracting from the discussion of the Skate Park decision here?
    https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/11125/

    On your P.F’in S.: your point is lost to me. Perhaps you could try to restate it in another way? Again, I would suggest doing so in the appropriate thread.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
    • kiffi summa said:

      Patrick : so now the Park Board is “other interested groups and persons”?

      Excuse me for the kind of rudeness you exhibit to me when you suggest, several times, that I should comment “on the appropriate thread”, but I would suggest that it’s a good thing you are not an editor … as your analytical, and even basic reading skills, seem to be lacking, as you so “easily showed”.

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Kiffi,
      It is not clear, from what I have read on the News and here, that the PRAB is included as an “interested group.” It is also not clear that the Council will be seeking their input on the siting decision. The PRAB has, after all, already stated their preference.

      I am sorry that you would like to lump all Council decisions into a single discussion. I am not interested in doing so.

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    Rob,
    You wrote:

    From looking at the reports of the two consultants (hired at what cost?), it’s clear that the consultants were also ignored because they didn’t give the PRAB the result they wanted. Both consultants, for good reasons, favor Memorial Park.

    Gene Allen Design: “[Memorial Park] has the most going for it.”

    Brauer and Associates: “As I stated at various public meetings, everything being equal, Memorial Park is a hard site to pass up…”

    The consultants cited the “synergy” of the Memorial site, its social atmosphere, the presence of other youth activities with supervision (the pool), and its location away from traffic. Gene Allen Design concluded: “If there are concerns about the impact of a skate park [in Memorial Park], they are minimal.”

    Thanks for that. As a relative newcomer to town, I was unaware of those previous studies.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  11. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick : In #5.1 you quoted the NFnews sentence regarding the site selection and the fact that the council would now be making the selection themselves;now in #9.1 you say”It is also not clear that the council will be seeking their (i.e.PRAB) input on the siting decision.”
    It is perfectly clear they won’t be seeking further PRAB input; they said so last night.

    Are you confused about what you read in the newspaper? Don’t bother to answer, please… that was a rhetorical question.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Kiffi,
      That was, in fact, my understanding from the article, and above.

      What I don’t know is whether or not the PRAB members will be allowed to offer further advice under the general category of ‘interested parties.’ I also don’t know whether or not you or I or Griff or Tracy or the Key will be considered as interested parties.

      If the Council clearly delineated exactly who the ‘interested parties’ were at the meeting, then the Nfld News could improve their reporting by communicating that information. If the Council did not, then it would be hard for the Nfld News to do so, either.

      Which, perhaps, gives you a ‘gotcha’ opportunity for one-upping the Nfld News, if you happen to have that info.

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
  12. kiffi summa said:

    I am not looking for ‘gotcha’ opportunities.
    I am looking for clear reporting that is not afraid to present the salient facts.

    And I am looking for a council that knows how to suggest a better solution for an outcome between its citizen B&Cs and itself, by treating an obvious difference of opinion as just that, without demeaning the citizen board by treating it like a naughty child who has defied the parent.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi,
    So the part that was ambiguous in the paper was also ambiguous in person?

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  14. David Ludescher said:

    We can’t forget that the skateboard group is a small special interest group. The City Council doesn’t have an obligation to give them anything, anywhere, any time. “No.” is a perfectly acceptable answer, especially in these tough times.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  15. Jane Moline said:

    I commend the elected officials of Northfield for taking the bull by the horns instead of bending to the non-elected park board’s NIMBYism.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  16. Jane McWilliams said:

    “No” may be an acceptable answer, David, but from what I observed last night, the council’s vote was a provisional “no.” (They actually voted “yes” do Denison’s motion to disapprove Ames Park for the skate board plaza!) As soon as they took that vote, they began talking about how they would select a site themselves. They obviously believe Northfield should have a skateboard park, and they feel a special obligation to the youth who have promoted and raised funds for one.

    I have reservations about the wisdom of the council taking the task of park planning. As Tracy says, this runs counter to one of their goals: to make maximum use of boards and commissions. It would have been more appropriate to send the matter back to the P & R Board, directing them to revisit the site selection process. In the meantime, I also think they should have asked staff to come up with a temporary site – about which no decisions were made last night. No telling how long a second search for a permanent location and decision may take. To paraphrase Bruce Roberts’ comments last night, how we treat kids says a lot about us as a community.

    And as Tracy points out, given the full agenda (Safety Center, budget planning, land development regulations to name a few), it is hard to see how the council can do justice to the sort of study envisioned to select an appropriate site.

    I suppose it is impossible to shield an advisory board from political pressure, but ours fell victim to that when they gave up Memorial Park, which the skateboard advocates preferred, in the face of neighborhood pressure. Some seem to think the council will be immune to NIMBY as they seek and decide on a location. I hope they are right!

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  17. kiffi summa said:

    Jane: We’re taking bets… wanta bet?

    Griff: you posted about this in about four places and then just let it ‘hang’ … what was Dr. Vanasek’s reaction when he left the council chambers?

    To the sock-puppet/trolls at the NFNews… Thanks for the compliment, but if I could write like Pietro… I’d be working for “The Nation”, not spending my old age writing on LG!

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
    • kiffi summa said:

      OH … forgot something… there IS a skatepark in Afghanistan, but we just can’t have one in Northfield.

      Strange world we live in!

      June 2, 2009
      Reply
  18. Patrick Enders said:

    Griff and the Northfield City Council:

    The “Skate plaza in Ames Park: how our Councilors approach the decision” section was an excellent idea. Thank you to Griff for organizing this, and thank you to our Councilors and Mayor for being so forthright in discussing their decision-making process.

    May this be a sign of good things to come!

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  19. Ann McGovern said:

    After researching many cities with skateparks, one thing has become clear, skateboard parks don’t belong in residential neighborhoods. The recommendation by most is that skateparks should be a minimum of 150 yards from the nearest home. There are numerous homes within that 150 yards surrounding Old Memorial Park. The main issue in residential neighborhoods is noise. Morning, noon and night from the time the snow melts until the snow flies, banging of boards and skreeching on metal.

    In addition, community members throughout Northfield have tried to protect green space within their neigborhoods in one way or another. Way, Lashbrook and Ames Parks come to mind. It is interesting that now when those of us on the East Side choose to try and protect our green space called Old Memorial Park and desire to have it returned to what it once was and what we were promised, we are called NIMBYS.

    The open field of green grass, old track, mini baseball diamond and pool that once graced Old Memorial are gone, all were torn down to remove the old football field and replace the pool. The community was invited to help plan a new pool and park space. The group had been given financial parameters that would include a pool and and replacing the park. The pool became larger and used up all the alloted funds. There was no money left to complete the park.

    The citizens were promised that as park money became available, Old Memorial Park would be completed. As I understand it, at some point in time, the skateboard park went to the front of the Park and Recreation line. The city hired 2 out of town consultants to drive around town and tell us how we should use our parks. These outsiders know nothing about how our community uses our parks. Yet, everyone quotes their findings as the gospel truth. What do these outsiders know about the history, plans and promises of Old Memorial Park or any park for that matter.

    To pour more concrete and cover the only remaining greenspace in one of the oldest parts of Northfield is a travesty, as is ignoring the noise factor that will create problems in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Any council action that does not take the neighborhood into consideration is an insult to the people of this community who are continually asked and have continually supported Northfield, its youth, its downtown and its schools.

    There have been many youth facilities built in Northfield, not “where” the kids wanted them, but where they best “fit” into the community. We should ask nothing less of a skatepark location.

    June 2, 2009
    Reply
  20. kiffi summa said:

    I very much appreciate the long explanation of Mayor Rossing regarding the history of the skate board park process.
    However , the part from the June 1 meeting, which I personally found so objectionable is missing from this account, just as it is unclearly reported in the newspaper.
    In finding no agreement with the PRAB’s site selection, the council decided that the site selection would become the council’s decision, and there were remarks made about the PRAB not being able to come to a decision for several years, dilemmas about the precedence of cart or horse (!), etc.

    The Park Board complied with every request of the council, on all the return evaluations. They reaffirmed the site they had chosen previously with lists of reasons.

    The council simply does not agree; that is their prerogative. Since no one knows what site the council will select, and they have removed that task from the appropriate Board, that process will have to begin all over again.

    I think the far better solution, considering this difference of opinion between the council and their advisory board, would have been to go back to the Park Board, and inquire … “since we cannot support your site selection with our vote of approval, would you care to develop a second choice? or if you have no second choice, would you prefer to have us take the site selection responsibility?”

    That would have been the respectful way to handle the matter, IMO.
    Sorry… just my opinion… maybe when they come together for their work session they will revise a rather hasty decision, and do just that.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    There’s an updated version of the Nlfd News story in today’s paper: Skatepark won’t be at Ames (print).

    Mayor Mary Rossing on Tuesday said she believes that frustration with the parks board pushed the council to take the lead on the selection.



    By ignoring council observations, Rossing said, the parks board has “lost a little credibility.”



    Parks Board Chair Rick Vanasek calls the council’s plan to move ahead without a parks board recommendation “very unwise” and says it’s a signal to other board and commission members that their opinions are of little value.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  22. Felicity Enders said:

    Is it possible that the council is doing this just because they’ve received so much input on the topic and want to be sure all citizens are represented? I like the idea that they are more inclined to work on a problem when it proves to be sticky. Also, saying they want to be more directly involved in the process does not preclude them from continuing to ask the parks board for input. But ultimately the council are the elected officials who directly answer to the public.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  23. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I hope the NFnews has gotten it wrong again, and that Mayor Rossing did not say what is quoted in your comment #21…

    That would not bode well for all the campaign rhetoric .

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  24. Tracy Davis said:

    Okay, time for me to lob one in there.

    What about Central Park? It’s not owned by the City, it’s owned by the citizens of Northfield (Supreme Court made the distinction in a ruling back in the 40’s or 50’s, I believe). Maybe it could be used at least as a temporary location.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  25. Patrick Enders said:

    Scott Kelly’s piece, linked above, contains a quote from an earlier News article on the PRAB’s stated reasons for rejecting a Riverside skate park site:

    “Riverside’s existing amenities, the War Memorial, a pavilion and playground, weren’t compatible with a skatepark, said the board, noting that the skateboarders’ presence would endanger children at the playground and the seniors who live just to its east.”

    It sounded as if the PRAB was trying to find a site for a prison, or a toxic waste dump. With that kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that our elected officials removed the PRAB from the site-selection process. Good thing, too.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  26. Tracy, surely you jest. What part of Central Park should be paved over for skaters? Right next to the playground? Next to where the Shakespeare in the Park starts in August? Historic Central Park should be sacrosanct from concrete development.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  27. Patrick Enders said:

    Tracy, you wrote:

    What about Central Park? It’s not owned by the City, it’s owned by the citizens of Northfield (Supreme Court made the distinction in a ruling back in the 40’s or 50’s, I believe).

    Is there a story behind this distinction?

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  28. David Henson said:

    Mayor Mary’s letter notes residents around memorial park agreed to park plan without skate board park. I would think the more amenities in the park the higher property values would be in the surrounding area which maybe seen as a bigger offset to increased activity now with falling home values than in the past.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  29. kiffi summa said:

    I think that citizens who want to comment on either the Council’s or the PRAB’s process have a responsibility to have read the relevant materials, minutes, reports, whatever, or have been at the meeting, or viewed the meeting on NTV, before they criticize the actions of the PRAB, or whatever ‘body’ it is, elected or not… as if they understand the full process.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  30. Paul Krause said:

    Had to write in response to the suggestion that Central Park might be included as a possibility as a location for the skate park. NO, NO, NO. The park has a very long history of various groups trying to use it for some other purpose than the North’s intended. John and Ann specifically designated it as “public square” This designation saved it a number of times from being turned into a school recreation field. Having worked with the community to raise money to restore the park back in the early 90’s, I can’t see it ever being used for anything but what it currently is. For background information check out my video documentary, “The Legacy of John and Ann North” available at the library.

    June 3, 2009
    Reply
  31. Patrick Enders said:

    Paul,
    I take it this history is what Tracy was alluding to when she said, “It’s not owned by the City, it’s owned by the citizens of Northfield”?

    I think I need to check out your film. Thanks!

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
  32. kiffi summa said:

    The basis for the case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, re: Central Park is that parkland is for the use of ALL the people, and even though some uses may be favored for one interest or another (Tennis, anyone?) no one can be excluded from the use of the property. So when the school district wanted to extend their property use, for athletic space, onto the adjoining Central Park property, the Court would not allow.
    There are still some people around who were involved with bringing that case, I think, maybe Paul would know that.
    It was , and is, a very defining case.

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
  33. Matt Sewich said:

    Since we are throwing out ideas of where to locate it since it won’t be at Ames and probably shouldn’t be…

    How about we put this skatepark in Way Park. That street they want closed to “connect” the park, let’s slap a skatepark on top of it, call it a day.

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
  34. Kiffi,

    Just a point of clarification: The 1940s Northfield Central Park case went to the MN State Supreme Court. You left that a little ambiguous.

    That ruling is quite defining in our musings here. It still stands, and any kind of permanent, dedicated space like a skatepark would almost certainly run afoul of that decision.

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
    • kiffi summa said:

      Brendon; That’s is what I meant . but i didn’t make it clear that it was MN, not U.S.

      However, a skate plaza WITHIN a larger park space does NOT violate the intent of the ruling, as neither does a ballfield, ice rink, tennis court, etc. Even a one-use area , like the NF soccer fields doesn’t violate because it is not coming under another regulatory jurisdiction , i.e., the school district using part of Central Park for sports activities.
      At least that’s how it was explained to me…

      Get your skateboard Brendon; I know you have a totally cool and fashion-forward outfit for the sport, don’t you?

      June 4, 2009
      Reply
  35. Thanks, Brendon. Looks like we won’t be paving over Central Park any time soon.

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
  36. David Henson said:

    Apparently big stone circle things are allowed in Central Park – the kids invented ‘circle soccer’ as a result.

    June 4, 2009
    Reply
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s the audio of Monday’s City Council skate park discussion:

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  38. Tracy Davis said:

    A skate park might be a designated space, but it doesn’t need to be assumed to be “permanent”. We had a sort-of skateboard park once, remember? Now it’s all grass.

    Maybe we can lighten up the discussion a bit by pointing out that like landscaping or patios, it’s possible to move or remove these things. If the kids are willing to risk their own money, what’s the problem?

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  39. kiffi summa said:

    The problem is, Tracy, that the council, three from the past and three of the current council, never wanted the skate plaza at Ames and they will simply use every excuse to prevent it , and then deflect the ‘blame’ onto the PRAB, The Memorial Park neighbors, whoever is convenient.

    Only Betsey Buckheit spoke to an analysis of each pertinent issue; the remaining councilors only reiterated the past rhetoric/ red herrings.

    1. Access — problems of access will be the same regardless of what use this space is put to . Buckheit spoke to the issue of using this siting to provide impetus to IMPROVE the access to this land, if it is ever to have a use other than a goose field.

    2. Safety – Same rationale as access; there needs to be some impetus to improve for ANY use. Pokorney has been ‘complaining’ about these safety issues for years; even correctly citing the difficulty of biking to Sechlar Park from the east side.

    3. Dollars related to Safety issues, i.e., fifth street bridge sidewalk and railing.
    City engineer stated at PRAB meeting that city’s finance director, K. McBride said these funds would NOT come out of the PB’s $$, but must be out of infrastructure $$.

    4. Malt-O-Meal issues: Jon Denison has made much of these; his concerns wiped out by PRAB’s chairs conversations with MOM execs, who only asked that skate plaza be sited at south end of Ames,re: their contamination concerns and possible foot traffic through their parking lot. (re: their contamination concerns, I would think anything that reduced the level of goose poop would be a plus on that issue.)

    1. Master Plans, consultant comments, etc. The council hired and has paid for a Master plan with three concepts for Ames Park WITH THE SKATE PLAZA THERE. Why was this done, if no intention to site it there? If nothing could be done until all three DT Parks are master planned, as Pownell suggests, then why spend $$ on one plan; isn’t it ($$) wasted?

    2. Money for parks, and in PRAB fund currently. I stopped in to see K. McBride (City finance director) a day or so ago, and to,inquire about the balance in the Park Fund.
      Much has been said about the fact that until this round of LGA cuts is less severe, there will be no additions to the Park Fund.
      However, I have not heard a single councilor speak to the amount of money that is currently in that fund.
      According to our most knowledgeable person on that amount ,there is approximately $400,000 and about 50 of that is reserved for pool issues, leaving a balance of approx $350,000.
      There was a placeholder in the current CIP budget for the skate plaza to the tune of 235,000.
      The PRAB chair has negotiated the original estimate by the builder down, there is interest in local in-kind construction donations, and the kids have raised between 30 and 40 K.
      It was NEVER said that we could afford to build the entire, fully developed park at one time, and the PRAB NEVER mandated that either , only saying that as a city gateway, it needed to be fully developed with a Master Plan for the full eventual development.

    SUMMARY: Tracy:, do you now understand why I keep saying this is a project which is PLAGUED with RED HERRINGS?

    My final comment is that it is entirely unfortunate that now the Mayor has been quoted in the NFNews, as saying the Park Board “has lost a little credibility”. And councilor Denison said at Monday’s meeting that the PRAB should have gotten the word since it came down from “on high”…
    I do not see these comments as boding well for elected officials who profess to see themselves as public servants.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  40. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: The kids are free to go build a skateboard park whenever and whereever they want.

    The questions concern a wise allocations of public resources which will be required by the skateboard park. The kids are asking for public land and public money at a time when both resources are at a premium.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  41. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi,
    Didn’t you yourself say that Memorial Park was the site preferred by skaters, and that you have supported it in the past?

    Accordingly, if through this process the Council selects Memorial Park as site for a skate park, wouldn’t that be a great success?

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  42. kiffi summa said:

    Yep… except , wait and see… I imagine the council will be as susceptible to the reaction of the neighbors as the Park Board initially was.
    And although Memorial Park was the original preferred location, a lot of thinking switched to Ames because of the lack of negative neighborhood reaction which could cause that location to be especially difficult if the kids are ‘hasseled’. Of course the neighbors have already said… without it even being there … that THEY would be ‘hasseled’ because of the noise.

    A very difficult neighborhood response to the location of it there, Patrick…
    So that is why, even though I was initially 100% for Memorial, I came to believe that the second choice, Ames, was the more practical and realistic, and problem-free-for-the -future choice, as well as having several (3-4) attributes that Memorial did not have.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  43. Patrick Enders said:

    Well, Kiffi, I have to hope that the Council can do better. Considering how things have gone on this thus far, that’s a pretty low bar to hurdle.

    If they fail, well, then we’re no worse off than the present situation.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  44. john george said:

    Patrick & Kiffi- There is a Proverb that goes something like this- Hope deferred makes the heart sick. It is little wonder some of the young people have a hopeless attitude toward working with we adults. We really haven’t proven ourselves very reliable.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
  45. Patrick Enders said:

    John, I agree – but we can’t undo what has (or hasn’t) happened in the past. Still, the need to act does not mean that we must take any action just for the sake of responding. It just means that we should move forward, and try again to take the right action.

    June 5, 2009
    Reply
    • john george said:

      Patrick- I agree with you on all your points. Hopefully, this movement can happen sooner rather than later.

      June 6, 2009
      Reply
  46. I really agree with Kiffi’s #2, and I don’t know what the weird aggression toward boards and commissions is all about (for example, Jane’s #15). I don’t think Ames Parks was the best location or even a particularly good location, but it was wildly disrespectful (and unhelpful) to remove the PRAB from the process.

    There’s a council liaison to every board — Jim Pokorney in this case — so if there were such strong objections, why weren’t they communicated earlier in the process?

    Each board and commission, while subject to a final acceptance or rejection of the council, is a decision-making body. Patrick wrote in 9.2, “It is also not clear that the Council will be seeking their input on the siting decision. The PRAB has, after all, already stated their preference.” They PRAB’s purpose is not to “state their preference”; they make decisions. They’re not just there to give the council an illusion of legitimacy in areas in which they have none.

    June 6, 2009
    Reply
  47. Patrick Enders said:

    Sean, you wrote:

    They PRAB’s purpose is not to “state their preference”; they make decisions.

    I would think that the purpose of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board is inherent in its name: its purpose is to advise, not decide.

    June 6, 2009
    Reply
  48. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: I think the key to Sean’s point i #47 is his last sentence:”They’re not just there to give the council an illusion of legitimacy in an area where they have none”

    You responded with an admonition as to the PRAB’s “Advisory” position; and yes, that is the “A” in their title.

    But I think you are not parsing out the NATURE OF THE RELATIONSHIP that was trying to be fostered by the creation of all NF’s Boards and Commissions.

    It was recognized that NF has a lot of extraordinary professionals that could provide expertise in a broad range of areas that no council person could be ever be expected to cover in such depth.

    Therefor the relationship between the council and their B and C’s must remain respectful. This does NOT mean that the Council should expect rubber stamp decisions when they take a recommendation from a board and then not liking that recommendation, send it back to try to obtain a different outcome. And it certainly does NOT mean that the B/C must only make recommendations that coincide with the council’s desired outcome, or they would negate their own reason for existence.

    The council is making their decision , in this case, based on not a professional recommendation, but on their personal choice. I firmly believe that because of the way they have not been able to support their rationale with FACTS (the way Betsey Buckheit did, for the most part) but only with oft repeated rhetoric. Their positions on the access, safety, finance, Malt-o-meal issues make no sense, and have been refuted by their own professional staff and the MOM execs.

    They are allowed to take that final, and very personal position of personal choice, but they should be honest enough to say it is just that; rather than hide behind a lot of dis-proven supposed ‘facts’ related to safety, access, finances, and M-O-M issues.

    What you seem to be supporting is the lack of need for any ‘advisory’ committees of expertise, because the word will come down from “on high” as Councilor Denison said, making the work of those citizen Boards nothing but busywork.

    There was a better way to handle this than taking it away from the PRAB, saying that they had not been able to make a decision. That statement in itself is contradictory; the council criticized the PRAB for not being able to “make a decision”, but they say the ‘decision’ is not that of the PRAB’s to make; when in reality what happened is that the PRAB sent a recommendation to the council, TWICE, that the council did not agree with and could not vote to support.

    That sequence of events is not a reason to insult the citizen board with the language and actions the Council used, last Monday night.

    P.S. If this was not an ‘instance of note’ why do you think Griff posted it in 4 separate places with the language he used?

    June 6, 2009
    Reply
  49. Patrick Enders said:

    Fine, Kiffi.

    I look forward to hearing the Council’s words on the recordings that Griff has recently posted, and then perhaps I’ll see what all the fuss is about.

    Thanks, Griff, for posting those.

    June 6, 2009
    Reply

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