Proposal for a new Boulder Creek recreation center causes a controversy
The current Boulder Creek Recreation Center sits in an unassuming location behind the Fire Department. A new proposal put forth by the Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District Board of Directors would move the center into a larger space that could serve thousands more people a month and provide more programs for area teens.
But a growing number of concerned residents are saying the plan is not as peachy as it sounds. These neighbors have formed the Boulder Creek-Brookdale Coalition of Concerned Citizens, (BCBCCC), and are up in arms over the proposal for the new multi-million dollar recreation center that would be built in a residential area on the south side of town. The building would take up nearly three-quarters of a city block, leaving the two homes not included in the purchase with backyards bordering the parking lot.
“Everyone agrees that it should be built—that there should be something for the community and there should be better services,” says Sean Woodward, spokesperson for the CCC. “It’s just a bad place for it.” The BCBCCC is trying to rally more community support against the plans and assist in locating an alternative site farther from the neighborhood.
“My main opposition is the location and the size that they are trying to build here—the largeness of it,” says Tom Rollins, a BCBCCC member. “I’ve lived here 54 years, my whole life, and this is unheard of. In the whole valley I can’t think of anything that has actually taken over a neighborhood like [this would].”
The Coalition is concerned that the facility would not only change the character of the neighborhood, but would also set a dangerous precedent for future commercial interests and attempts to rezone the area (although the Rec Board assures that rezoning would not have to take place for the facility). Members claim that other sites are available but have not been explored sufficiently by the Board, which is all volunteer and elected by residents.
Additionally, the BCBCCC says that the Recreation Board did not demonstrate due diligence in environmental testing or neighborhood involvement, but rushed the selection and design of the center in order to meet the deadline for Prop 84, a state program passed in 2006 that could provide the board with a $5 million dollar grant for the project.
“Whenever you are doing a project of this magnitude its very important that you get all the stake holders involved from the beginning,” says BCBCCC member Leonard Eaton. “They failed to communicate with anybody at all in the neighborhood.”
However, Eric Hammer, project coordinator and Parks and Recreation board member, says that the project has been ongoing for six years and has been publicized in local papers and fliers every step of the process.
“It took us two and half years to identify a piece of property that fit our needs,” says Hammer. “[Prop 84] is not what’s driving our facility. What’s driving our facility is the need in the community, the community telling us that they want a new facility.”
He adds that residents were not notified beforehand due to a condition in the letter of intent for purchasing the property that restricted notification of the public until after the letter was signed.
As for the concern that the Board did not demonstrate due diligence in terms of an Environmental Impact Report or proper soil testing, Hammer says that complete testing takes place during escrow if a final sale is determined, not beforehand, and that pre-development information was shown to the county to demonstrate that the site was viable.
Christina Horvat, district manager for Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District, also insists that the Board has been transparent and operated according to the desires of the community from the beginning, holding regular community meetings about the new center and setting up a task force to identify and oversee the acquisition process.
“We have a lot of friends that are on or near the property and then we have some opposition, which is a small percentage compared to the supporters,” she says.
The District is funded predominantly through property taxes, fees and rental income and a bequest left several years ago. The Board says the need for a new recreation center was identified through a 10 year Strategic Plan and, due to the current conditions of the property market, timing is crucial. Additionally, the Boulder Creek Fire Department, which has been leasing out the space for the current recreation center in its own facilities, has recently expressed interest in expanding its own operations into that space.
“The fire department needing to expand, us needing to expand—it’s a perfect opportunity,” says Hammer.
The deadline for committing to buy the properties is Sept. 30. The Recreation Board says it will continue to look for other suitable properties until that time, as well as explore other means of financing if they are not awarded the grant. Until then, monthly board meetings will continue to be held the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the current recreation center, where community concerns about the new center will be addressed.
“We are listening to those concerns,” says Hammer, “and are very willing to design something that, to the best of our ability, will mitigate those concerns.”
Visit the petition site at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stop-the-plan-now
written by Corrine, May 13, 2010
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