Pamela Lane and Trafalgar Drive residents: Park dispute continues
July 20, 2015
Hidden in the last City Council packet was a request from City Manager Deb Hinsvark to administratively negotiate a contract with Triple Crown to expand their operations to Emerald Park. For many months, Hinsvark and her administration have been negotiating with Chamber Resort Association and Mainstreet, and, through those organizations, Triple Crown, to allow Triple Crown access to Emerald Park. This is happening despite 19 years of city precedence and policy to maintain Emerald Park for local youth and families. This is happening despite no alternative access to the park and no timeline from the railroad to complete that access. This is happening despite the fact that city staff has never once met with the residents of Pamela Lane to discuss the impact of an additional 90-plus cars going up and down our narrow street multiple times per day on our 70 residents, our families, our children and our pets. This is happening despite no City Council direction for her to negotiate for, much less change, city policy.
Emerald Park was created to be a place where local youth could go to play and practice baseball, soccer and lacrosse when Triple Crown was in town. It is the only multi-use park in the city not dominated during the summer by Triple Crown. City Council minutes from the mid-1990s confirm the reasons Emerald Park was established.
Already this summer, city staff, in consultation with city council, has redefined who qualifies as "youth" to include 21-year-old adults so more baseball teams can use Emerald Park fields. City staff did this in defiance of Colorado law, specifically the Age of Majority law, which defines adults as those 18 and older, and the city ordinance that specifies uses for Emerald Park. We checked with an attorney. That's more than city staff saw fit to do.
The city gives Triple Crown $140,000 annually in cash and field maintenance. In exchange, Triple Crown patrons return about $400,000 in city sales tax, according to a city- and chamber-requested study about the economic benefits of Triple Crown. That represents about 1.5 percent of total city sales tax yearly. Emerald Park fields constitute only a 15 percent increase in Triple Crown operations. Adding them will generate only 1/3 of 1 percent in additional city sales tax annually. This is an enormously insignificant amount compared to the harm opening those fields will cause the residents of Pamela Lane, the visitors to the Botanic Park, the local youth who use Emerald Park for sports practice and games and all of the locals and visitors who love Emerald Park for picnics, play and recreation.
The last time Triple Crown proposed accessing Emerald Park, then-Chamber Executive Director Tom Kern offered this rational solution at the city's Park and Recreation Commission hearing. Complete the alternative access, he suggested: Then have a community dialogue about the future uses of Emerald Park.
The city should be inviting public dialogue. Public isn't just Triple Crown, the chamber and Mainstreet. Instead, after a packed public hearing about Triple Crown was tabled in June, the Triple Crown plan was hidden in the city manager's staff report, a place where public comment isn't allowed. Now, this community issue is positioned as a resolution on city council's consent calendar. City staff don't get to do this. They don't get to decide what laws pertain to them. They don't get to determine the future purpose of city parks. They tried that with Rita Valentine Park, remember? They don't get to cause irreparable harm to city residents with no notice and no input. They don't get to make policy. They don't get to stop residents from speaking.
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Pamela Lane and Trafalgar Drive residents