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Two dozen city parks could be placed on the November ballot for decommissioning, prompting protests from some neighbors who asked the City Council to reconsider in a public hearing Tuesday.
The council voted to support a resolution that declares the areas as having no feasible use as parks, and an intent to place a measure that would decommission the parks on the ballot for November.
It is understood, however, that the list could change before the city adopts the ordinance for the referendum, since the city offers adoption programs for parks, Mayor Nelda Martinez said.
Several people went to the meeting to speak in public comments about the proposed parks decommissioning. Several neighbors of Brandywine Park, 2601 Summer Ridge Drive, Holly Park, 6451 Meadowvista Drive, and Lee Manor Park, 318 Palmetto St., spoke against it.
Joe A. Gonzales, who lives near Brandywine Park, said he brought his children to the park, and now he takes his grandchildren.
"We're talking about the Corpus Christi parks. ... This is ours. It belongs to us," he said, suggesting that the city should ask for volunteers.
"The parks ... are invaluable, not only to us as citizens but to those of us that grew up in this city and have played in these parks, that bring our grandkids in order for them to enjoy it - think about it," Gonzales said.
Debbie Lindsey-Opel, meanwhile, spoke in favor of the plan, saying that city resources were strained, and that consolidation could offer a viable solution.
"At the end of the day, we need to maximize our quality of place," she said.
The idea behind the decommissioning is to cull smaller parks that are not as heavily used, redirecting manpower and funding to properly maintain and improve larger, more popular parks, Michael Morris, parks and recreation director, has said.
The parks were identified as candidates for decommissioning through a three-year process that included surveys, community meetings and council meetings, Morris said. The decommissioning was included as part of a master plan adopted by the City Council in 2012.
An analysis showed that the city has a higher number of parks per capita than other Texas cities and that many of them are small and not properly maintained. That situation resulted, in part, because older development codes required developers to donate land for park space, officials have said. Those codes have since changed, and developers can now make a monetary donation for park amenities within about 1.5 miles of the development, instead.
Decommissioning and selling the land requires voter approval.
In addition to the resolution vote, the council voted in favor of a motion by City Councilman Chad Magill to include wording in the ordinance specifying that the money from the parks' sales would go to park improvements. The council also voted for a motion by City Councilwoman Colleen McIntyre for staff to research better notification methods - such as those used for rezoning cases, in which residents are sent a letter - to alert neighbors of decommissioning talks.
After the meeting Roy Jarbeaux expressed frustration, saying he had worked with city officials years ago to develop Holly Park, and he questioned criteria city staff used when identifying which parks should be on the list.
Jarbeaux added that he would adopt the park, if need be.
"That's what we'd be willing to do to save the park," he said.
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