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Jonesboro resident debate Lee Street Park input

Resident versus non-resident argument emerging

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day responds Monday to questions about why people who do not live in the city were allowed to participate in an anonymous survey on Lee Street Park. Day said there was no way to separate who lived in the city and who did not. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day responds Monday to questions about why people who do not live in the city were allowed to participate in an anonymous survey on Lee Street Park. Day said there was no way to separate who lived in the city and who did not. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

JONESBORO — Open discussions about the future of Lee Street Park turned into a debate about whether people who live outside Jonesboro, but use its resources, should have a say in the town’s affairs.

The city held its third public forum on the park’s future on Monday and it was intended to focus on what amenities residents most wanted to see in the park. About midway through, however, it turned into a lively back and forth on whether past survey results were valid if nonresidents were allowed to participate in them.

One resident, Anne Wise, expressed concerns to Mayor Joy Day that it skewed the results of a previous survey to the point where it wasn’t an accurate depiction of what city residents want.

“People can come and enjoy what goes on in the city, but what’s built in the city should ultimately be voted on by the city residents, which is what you originally said was going to happen,” Wise said.

The debate over who should participate in park surveys became so lively, it was unclear whether a third survey planned to be taken at the meeting would even be handed out. At one point, the park’s steering committee, consisting of residents and one business owner, had to huddle together and decide whether to proceed.

They decided to proceed with the survey, where participants had to rank features, such as an amphitheater, additional trees, picnic areas, gazebos, playground equipment and a farmer’s market area.

“We have to do something that we can do within our means, but still nice that we can all enjoy,” Day said.

Jonesboro is working on developing a plan for the park’s refurbishment, and a large part of that work is gathering public input on what amenities the park should have. Day said renovations are expected to begin early next year.

Proponents of only residents having input argue that Jonesboro is their city and they alone should have a say in what its public facilities look like. Advocates for including non-residents input argue that people who live outside the city, but use the park on a daily basis also have a right to voice opinions on it’s future.

The resident vs. non-resident argument had not been expressed in Lee Street Park public input meetings before Monday. However, it could mean the difference between one type of park and another.

“It’s city property, it’s city SPLOST money that’s going to build it and the city residents should be the ones who decide what goes there,” said Councilman Bobby Wiggins.

But Councilman Randy Segner pointed out SPLOST money isn’t generated by Jonesboro residents alone.

“Other people who don’t necessarily live in Jonesboro pay for that SPLOST as well,” Segner said.

Even before the debate began publicly, some residents began to see the park as an issue that could divide the city. While talking about the cost of maintaining the park, David Barron drew comparisons to the controversy surrounding the city’s decision to eliminate its volunteer fire department nearly a decade ago.

That helped lead to Day losing a re-election bid in the 2007 mayoral election. She had to sit out the next four years before residents would vote her back into office.

“I’m glad I’m not on the steering committee,” Barron said. “This is going to be the biggest can of worms we’ve opened in this city since we fired all of the firemen. I have learned over the years that it’s not wrong to voice your opinion about something.

“Somebody’s going to be hurt and somebody’s going to be blamed for all of these fancy things that we’re planning on bringing to the city for a plus that could very easily be a minus,” he added.

Comments

Joel09 1 year, 2 months ago

I may add that everyone on that meeting, because I do not recall anyone suggesting otherwise, agreed that only residents of the city could vote on the future of Lee Street Park. The heated exchange began when a resident questioned to why the city should consider outsider's input (in which there is no evidence the city is purposely pursuing outsiders input). Some, myself included, a resident of the city, a young professional with 2 young kids, argued that only residents can vote, but we must do so with the understanding that attracting outsiders like young educated-families, and with money to buy a home and raise a family, we can spark economic growth to the city. Is like a business, more customers equals more profits. When I travel and spend quality and valuable time with the family, I take my wallet with me. Not to consider outsider's wants and needs is like a business that shot itself on the foot. A business without a vision, singled minded, and doomed to fail. So in order to bring economic growth, we must first improve the quality of life for all residents and not just a sector of it.

Current development trends are indicating that young educated-families are leaving the suburbs, moving to the cities, and in return leaving behind stagnated home prices. We need to think like developers, they create value before anyone can see it.

It is also important to attract educated individuals so that professional businesses do not feel the pressure to relocate where it is easier to find qualified personnel (myself included). The why consider outsiders is short sighted - we can always charge parking to outsiders while encouraging locals to walk (free parking to residents). We can constantly cater our efforts to attract lawyers to live here - it will be a perfect location for them. We have the Park and Ride within walking distances; why not understand the need from someone to move here and use this service to work at Atlanta? Why cannot teachers working at both schools (provably not residents) enjoy a fresh made lunch (from our Farmer's Market produce) at the park and generate revenue from a leased outdoor café (as well as sales taxes)? Why cannot we have donation boxes around the park for voluntary contributions to outsiders after enjoying a tremendous family time?

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Joel09 1 year, 2 months ago

Continuation... If we create a true CITY park, a balanced park where there is a little for everyone, serine areas to relax, dynamic areas for kids and families to enjoy, a place to showcase our history, traditional feel, contemporary feel, every sector of our community benefits. I just cannot fathom the idea of a mandate, a singular approach to a complex phenomenon such as creating a city park. We can make it happen, piece by piece, with a vision beyond our border. We need to compete against other cities working to attract new residents. It is a 6.62-acre parcel of land and we cannot accommodate a little bit for everyone? We can start from what we lack the most and build from there. What is the matter with us? What do we fear? This is the City of Jonesboro - let us show everyone around our border how to do business for the financial benefit and well-being of our citizens. Lee Street Park is a gold mine and I truly hope we, all together, have the courage to seize the opportunity. We will all one-day die, but what we built remains as the testament for what we believed in.

P.S. Imagine if we even expand the park towards Park and Ride, re-construct Lee Street Elementary School or create a space for a chatter school, after we sold the land for a profit. Could you imagine the economic expansion we could gain by attracting families looking for an excellent education to their kids?

P.S. The law of dynamics tells us that we are constantly moving, the fundamental question is, to what direction? What is our vision? Could we vote on that?

Joel Aviles, Reg. Architect, NCARB

Please see pictures below: Could we agree with them?

http://www.news-daily.com/users/photos/2013/aug/14/74971/

http://www.news-daily.com/users/photos/2013/aug/14/74972/

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