Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

TOP STORY >>New parks possible for west side of town

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Plans are in the works to add about 34 acres of new parks to Jacksonville—all on the west side of town.

Alderman Gary Fletcher told the council at its meeting Thursday night that the parks department had worked out plans for the parks with the developers of the 160-acre Southridge subdivision.

The planned subdivision is south and north of Main Street and west of the Penn Pointe and Tara Mount subdivisions.
Fletcher wants the city to consider using some of the $200,000 it is receiving in one-time turn-back money to develop the parks. “Without putting money into the parks, it’ll just be empty land,” he said.

“We are concerned about building an image to draw young families and lots of neighborhood parks will help,” Fletcher explained.

Mayor Tommy Swaim said he had no problems with some of the money going into the parks, but suggested a better way to fund the parks would be through the new two-cent hamburger tax, which the city started collecting last week.

That tax, which is projected to garner about $450,000 a year, goes to the city’s advertising and promotion commission which must spend at least half of it on the parks and recreation department.

“People don’t realize that once you buy or develop a park, you’ve got to have enough money for annual upkeep and extra personnel,” the mayor explained.

The mayor added that he lived quite a distance from a park. “Well, you give me these parks this year, and I’ll give you one next year,” Fletcher joked.

Plans for the Southridge Subdivision, which is in Fletcher’s ward, call for two one-acre pocket parks north of Main Street, and a two-acre and a 30-acre park on the south side. The 30-acre park, about the size of Excel Park, could become home to baseball and soccer fields, according to Parks and Recreation Director George Biggs.
In other council business:

Aldermen approved an ordinance rezoning 28 acres adjacent to Foxwood from R-0 (single-family homes) to R-1 (single family homes with smaller lots). This allows developer Jack Wilson to proceed with his plans for a subdivision of about 100 homes on the acreage.

The approval caps months of raucous and packed planning commission meetings where the residents put up numerous objections to the plans. Concerns included excessive amount of traffic, safety of the children, speeding and falling property values.

The council approved the final plat of the Jacksonville Shopping Center, Tract 2—the green space between Wendy’s and Mike Wilson’s law office. City Administrator Jay Whisker said the developer had no plans yet for the property, but was just making it more attractive to potential buyers.

Zaxby’s, a new regional chicken restaurant coming to Jacksonville, which could have built on the acreage, has turned in plans to tear down the car wash near New China on Marshall Road and build the restaurant there.

The council also approved a resolution allowing the city to destroy paper records. Some of the records are more than 40 years old. Most are from the early to the mid-90s. “State requires us to keep some records into perpetuity, while others we only need to keep for a certain amount of time,” the mayor explained. All the records listed in the resolution are beyond the required time.

“Many are redundant and take up needed space,” Swaim said.

In its monthly report, the engineering department stated it had issued 19 building permits and 10 business licenses during September. The department also performed more than 300 inspections and issued more than 400 warning letters to residents or business for unsightly or unsanitary property.

Previously, Public Works Director Jim Oakley had released the animal shelter’s August report. That month, the shelter took in 144 dogs and 120 cats. It adopted out 55 dogs and 18 cats, while 33 dogs and two cats were returned to their owners. The shelter euthanized 81 dogs and 88 cats in August.

Three dog bites were reported to animal control officials in August. Two were from a stray lab and the bites occurred at the animal shelter. The third was a pit bull bite. The dog was euthanized.