Library site wrong in every way

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By The Staff

We have appealed the decision to put skateboarding on the front steps of Mesa Public Library (MPL). We make our case to the County Council (CC) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Building. We are appealing because we have legal standing: We live within 100 yards of the property line. We are also appealing on behalf of many people who expressed their disapproval of this site via signing a petition, personal communication and letters to the editor.

We understand the need for a place to skateboard. Skateboarders have been causing disruption and financial costs to merchants by ignoring the postings prohibiting skateboarding on downtown sidewalks. We support re-establishing a place to skateboard. As a matter of fact, as a county councilor, Morrie Pongratz worked hard to establish the previous site off Canyon Road.

In a demonstration of clout and influence the police chief selected the library site and bypassed the county’s Parks and Recreation Board and the Youth Advisory Board.

The County Council voted to amend the Mesa Public Library Landscape Master Plan without even consulting with citizens who developed the original plan; then, it ignored the “no” vote of the Mesa Public Library Board, Fuller Lodge Historic District Advisory Board and Senior Center Advisory Board. It didn’t even consult with the nearby citizens on Bathtub Row, 2500 Central and Oppenheimer Place before changing the plan. Once the plan was announced, County Council pretty much ignored a petition with 340 names, which has recently increased to more than 500 names, against the library skateboard site

The police chief wanted skateboarding right across from the police building so the police could “keep an eye on” the skateboarding, but you can’t even see the proposed skateboard site from the police building! In a meeting with 2500 Central residents, 10 months after the site was chosen, the chief ruled out video camera monitoring of the skateboarding, saying, “We don’t have time or staff to monitor another camera.”

We are very concerned by the safety of the open design, proposed lack of supervision and the late hours for skateboarding. The proposed site will have a sign reading, “This is an unsupervised facility: Participate at your own risk.” Mixing 12-year olds and 17-to 20-year-olds, especially after dark, without adult supervision is just not smart.

And, there are plenty of other sites. A much better site, as Irene Powell pointed out in her recent letter to the editor, is on the south side of the Community Building, next to the Youth Activity Center and also close to the police building. The size of the site could be increased if skateboarding is a big success, and the Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) issue is resolved. Testing is scheduled to begin in a few weeks. East Park and several other sites around the Community Building have also been proposed. At a Los Alamos Youth Leadership (LAYL) meeting, our youth recommended “Reconstruct Skate Park by the Blue Whale.”

The county code provides very narrow grounds for our appeal. According to our attorney, the library skate board park is included in the downtown area, but does not comply with the Downtown Master Plan, which is included in the Comprehensive Plan, and the county must substantially conform to the Comprehensive Plan. It was county staff’s responsibility to point out to the Planning and Zoning Commission that a skate board park is not a green area as required by the Comprehensive Plan, and two sentences from a 62-page document saying “increase youth activities in the downtown” does not make a 15,000-square-foot skateboard park in compliance and OK.

The county attorney argues that hundreds of citizen and county staff hours and tens of thousands of dollars that went into creating the Downtown Master Plan are only for guidance. Evidently, County Council can ignore the fact that it doesn’t comply with its own Downtown Master Plan and other rules. Certainly, it would not let anybody else get away with that.

In our appeal we will argue that the decision failed to apply adopted plans, policies and ordinances; that there was factual error; and that the action was arbitrary, capricious or a manifest abuse of discretion.

To avoid missing the forest for the trees, we need citizens to contact county councilors and express the fundamental point that the library site is inappropriate. Our appeal is formal; the appeal of citizens will be less formal but perhaps more effective. Concerned citizens need to turn out at the County Council meeting next week. If the council wants to approve this plan over all the objections, let’s make it “look us in the eye” and tell us why it is ignoring the input of many citizens and not following its own rules.

If any citizens are so inclined, an account has been set up at LANB called the “Skate Board Park Relocation Fund” to help with legal expenses connected with the appeal and preparation for necessary further action. Any leftover funds will be donated to Mesa Public Library.

Skateboarding in front of the library doesn’t make sense!

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