WATERLOO — Leisure Services Commission members are urging against selling portions of three city parks for housing development.
Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday against a controversial proposal to sell lots along the edges of Prairie Grove, Sulentic and Castle Hill parks to generate income, new housing and reduce city maintenance costs.
The commission was asked to weigh in after city planners identified the lots and indicated there was interest from developers in those locations.
More than 1,800 residents, many living near the parks, had signed petitions opposing any park sales. Dozens showed up during public discussion at last month’s commission meeting to defend the public spaces.
Leisure Services Director Paul Huting said the City Council must hold a public hearing if it decides to move forward with park sales. But he wasn’t sure if any action would be taken now based on the commission’s recommendation.
Councilman Steve Schmitt, liaison to the commission, said he “didn’t see any reason for it” to come to the council for a vote given the lack of commission support.
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Two residents living near Sulentic Park attended the meeting to support the commission’s decision.
We’d like it to remain as it is,” said Charlie Burrell, “open, publicly owned land.”
The commission did support the city entertaining development proposals for a 1.55-acre vacant lot in the Audubon Park Addition, near the intersection of Caras Road and Partridge Lane.
Audubon Park developer Bill Rickert had deeded the lot to the city years ago for use as a park. But the land was never developed when neighbors disagreed over whether the site should be opened for public use.
“There was never clear agreement, so it just kind of sat there,” Huting said.
The neighborhood association previously maintained the lot. But the city ultimately wound up mowing the property.