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Whoever wrote the editorial “Our View: Skate park mess gets worse” did not read the county ordinances. Nothing in the ordinances allows the council to excuse itself and appoint an “impartial hearing officer or body.” We are a county of laws that all, including the council, must follow. The ordinance defining council’s hearing the appeal is very specific. It does not direct council “to pass judgment on itself.” It directs council to decide if P&Z’s decision to approve the site plan based upon certain criteria was done correctly.
Council had to make its decision based upon the P&Z record. In any legal appeal new evidence may not be introduced. The appellants attempted to introduce new evidence and attempted to imply that P&Z could not do its jobs correctly because it did not have copies of all the plans in front of them and instead asked questions of the county staff. The implication was that county staff was not answering P&Z’s questions truthfully. The specious argument about the size of the skate park was an attempt to muddy the waters.
Is it 4000 square feet or is it 0.4 acres? What the appellants seemed to say was this was an attempt to mislead, not inform. They attempted to equate the size of the skating area and the size of the entire park.
If there is divisiveness in the community now, further legal action against the skate park by the “affected” parties will cause more divisiveness. Just because there is an option to appeal to District Court does not mean it is the best thing for the community. Some who who live within the “affected” areas have not signed any petition but instead have privately indicated that they are in favor of the plan so the neighborhoods are not speaking with one voice.
The ordinance about who can appeal a project gives supposedly “affected” parties too much influence. It should be rewritten so that “affected” parties must live within 300 feet of the center of the project, not of the property line, if the planned project will occupy less than 50 percent of the property on which it will be built. The west most edge of the skate park is 260 feet from the berm on the west side of the driveway to the library. Thus some “affected” residents live over 500 feet from the center of the project.
A rigid interpretation of the Downtown Plan would require the removal of both parking lots and the tot lot south of Mesa Public Library. If we strictly enforce the “green” aspect of that area, then the county must remove them as quickly as possible. If we believe the “green” aspect of that area is simply a guideline, then the plan does not preclude a skate park in front of the library. Remember, we must be careful what we wish for.