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Emotions run high over Hubbard Veterans Memorial parking lot

by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Plans to build a 5-space parking lot at the Marion E. Carl Veterans Memorial in Hubbard have sparked resistance from neighbors over concerns about potential crime and loss of green space. Plans to build a small parking lot near the Marion E. Carl Veterans Memorial have split the Hubbard community, putting those who want to preserve green space on one side and those who would like to improve access for veterans and their loved ones on the other.

The city voted to move forward with the installation of five parking spots, including two handicapped spaces, at the memorial, located on the Wolfer-Will Greenway on D Street in Hubbard.

The memorial was installed and dedicated in May 2012 with only off-street parking available. Parking had been intended for a later date.

But where funding for the $10,000 parking lot portion of the project will come from is unclear after the group raising money for the project voted against it.

The five-person Hubbard Parks Improvement Committee voted 3-2 against the parking lot construction in July after residents from an adjacent subdivision complained about the potential for crime, loss of green space and potential decline in property values that could come from building a parking lot in the greenway.

“This is a greenway and they want it to stay a greenway,” said Linda Kleczynski, addressing the Hubbard City Council last week. Kleczynski had been spearheading the memorial development, raising $1,300 through a combination of a bake sale, raffle and donations. She resigned her position as an HPIC board member, however, after the July vote.

“I sensed that I didn’t have the support of the majority of the HPIC members on this park project and was ready to leave,” she said.

About 10 people got up to speak at the meeting Aug. 13, both in support and against the parking lot, including Jonnie Wachter, president of HPIC.

Wachter lives near the greenway and bought her house because she thought there would be no development on it, she said.

“I feel that putting a parking lot into the greenway further deviates from what the original master plan states — that this would be unimproved green space,” she said. “I think adding a parking lot to the greenway allows people to monitor residents. It allows cars to park there at all hours of the night.”

Another resident, Kyra Heine, said she loves living near the green space and would hate to see more concrete.

“To tear into that wonderful greenway, that spaciousness fits in with the city as it is,” she said. “I am not so sure it would have positive effects for the city.”

The city, meanwhile, contends that a parking lot has always been planned as part of the memorial. How to pay for it, however, had been left up to HPIC, said Jaime Estrada, public works superintendent.

“We have always worked very close with the parks committee,” he said. “The intent in the original plan was to have a parking lot, but unfortunately, due to funding, it was broken up into phase A and phase B.”

In support of the parking lot, Myrna Cowley said her son, a veteran in a wheelchair, needed assistance to get to the memorial from off-street parking.

“You’ve got to have a place that they can come to and visit on their own in their wheelchair,” said Cowley, her voice choking with emotion. “It took two of us. Out of respect for our veterans, you have to provide these people with the opportunity to visit that memorial for the purpose it was put in there.”

Another resident, Leonard Smith, argued that not providing accessibility for disabled persons would leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If you leave this as it is now, we’re illegal,” he said. “The decision was made over three years ago and you’ve got to follow through with that.”

After a lengthy public comment period, the meeting ended on a sour note with Councilor Bruce Warner accusing Wachter of holding up the construction of the parking lot for personal reasons.

“For an individual to consider the greenway her backyard, that is incorrect,” he said. Then, pointing his finger at Wachter, he said, “Where were you three years ago when this was passed?”

Wachter, who offered to resign rather than potentially block the project, said the councilor was out of line and walked out.

After she left, the council voted unanimously to move the project forward with the existing plan for parking.

Kleczynski will continue raising funds for the parking lot from the community and hopes to have the money raised in the next year or two, she said.

“I think it became a personal thing,” she said of the HPIC opposition to the parking lot. “I hope in time they will see the need of it and the beauty of it and how it completes the area. It does not detract from the looks of the greenway. But I’m sorry it ended the way it did.”




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