Citizens used the public comment period at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting to address the possible sale and development of land at the corner of Hemlock Ave and 8th Street, at the south end of Beell Stadium. The property is currently owned by the City and has served primarily as a parking area for events held at Beell Stadium.
Eight citizens, all with property in the area, came forward to question the council on the sale.
The first question addressed to the council was from citizens who were interested in purchasing part or all of the property.
“I’ve lived there for 14 going on 15 years and when we moved in there I talked to Mike Feirer and I said, ‘Mike if that lot ever comes up for sale, I want first dibs on buying it,’” said Lois Moore, a resident whose property is adjacent to the property in question. “I never heard a word from anybody on it.”
Moore also had concerns about the width of parts of the lot in question.
“We couldn’t even put a patio behind the house because you would not allow us to build a wooden platform so that I could walk on,” she said, adding that steps are difficult for her to navigate as she walks with a cane. “We had to settle for a cement stamp slab. I have now had to walk up three steps on my house to get to the cement slab if I want to use the back of my house, so if anybody else builds behind us, their lot is going to be as narrow as ours.”
The next question raised was concerning parking and safety for football games.
“Where are they going to park for the football games? Tonight it’s a Junior High game. There are 50 cars in the lot right now as we speak,” said Doug Adler, another resident in the area. “They have parked down Hemlock well beyond Weister Court. They are parked all along 8th Street, all along Palmetto, all the way up to the end of the track. We need to keep that as-is for parking.”
The final issue that was raised was concerning the transparency of the process.
“The way this decision was done, behind closed doors, makes a person wonder if people making this decision either has some other personal stake in this or has a total disregard for the people living in that area of town or the parents and children who utilize the middle school,” said Sheila Copp in a letter read by another citizen.
A review of agendas of the Board of Public Works and Common Council shows a single closed session item on the August 20 Board of Public Works meeting for “Disposition of 8th Street and Hemlock Ave Property,” with no action taken in Open Session.
Then followed a single item in Closed Session for the full Common Council on August 28 for “Disposition of 8th and Hemlock Ave Property.” The full council voted to send the development for the property to RFP. According to the minutes, all council members voted ‘yes’.
Alderman Tom Buttke responded to the public comments during the meeting.
“I hear you people, but there are some misstatements here. The school owns the land that you are referring to*. I hope that you people are going to the school board meeting and talking about that development with the sporting complex because they’re not hearing you. They’re putting this stuff in and not getting enough parking going down there. We don’t own the land now,” said Buttke. “I get that that we have to make it safe, but it’s all over the city and I’m going to miss a bunch of them but it’s Columbus High School, grade schools, Griese Park and the list goes on and on.”
“We’ve got the same situation. It’s not good but we got the same situation. Are you okay with possibly raising taxes to put a whole bunch of parking lots in for events that are going to happen?” said Buttke. “I’m a guy that likes to deal with just the facts, and I just wanted to point that out. But thank you guys for coming.”
(*Buttke later corrected that Parks and Recreation owns the land in question.)
“Concerned residents of the 8th and Hemlock area by Beell Stadium came to the Common Council tonight to voice their concerns on the potential sale of a property there, as well as safety concerns of traffic in that area, as well as people parking in front of their driveways and actually in their driveways,” said Mayor Bob McManus in a statement after the meeting. “The City is going to immediately look into the safety concerns raised, as well as take a second look at the sale of the property in question. We appreciated all residents who showed up to voice their concerns as well as those that sent letters.”
OnFocus will continue to follow this developing story.