Skate park back in play

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By Carol A. Clark

Thought to be settled by a 6-1 vote a week ago, the county council agreed Tuesday to put the deeply divisive skate park project back on the agenda for reconsideration. They will decide whether to put the park’s location to a vote of the people.

“This is a petition that recommends a different course of action than what’s been recommended in the past,” said Council Chair Jim Hall. “I don’t think we have a choice on this and I think we will put it on the agenda....”

Council agreed to revisit the issue following a presentation by Mike Wismer who was representing a group of petitioners.

“I stand before you tonight to do something I didn’t think I would ever be doing, but the sheer volume of input I have received on this matter compelled me to bring a petition to you,” he said. “Since the subject of the petition is a rather controversial one, I need to address two important components and then I will get into the details.”

Wismer said the petitioners, and everyone else he has talked to about the skate park, agree that the council and each member of the council are hardworking, dedicated public servants who strive to make the best decision for the community.

“We all recognize the difficulty of your jobs and recognize the number of hours you have to dedicate to this position,” Wismer said. “In short, we respect the work this council does and the professionalism you display despite the strong emotions that often accompany many of the policy issues you deal with.”

The signers of Tuesday’s petition and the 500 people who signed previous petitions agree with the basic premise that the county should use the CIP process and spend the money to build a high-quality skate park on the hill, he said.

“For those who may want to demonize this effort as anti-youth or anti-skate park, let me say unequivocally that we are all unanimous in our strong and unwavering support for building a recreational skate park for the youth of Los Alamos,” Wismer said. “The specific component of the skate park we take issue with is the location.”

The petitioners do not want the skate park constructed in front of Mesa Public Library, which is the site approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission as meeting the 13 criteria of the Downtown Master Plan. Council approved the site several weeks ago and that decision was appealed by surrounding neighbors. Council voted down that appeal last week.

The petition submitted to council Tuesday is signed by 11 residents from throughout the county and includes such notables as Rep. Jeannette Wallace, Sen. Stephen Stoddard (Ret.), and Nancy Bartlitt of the Fuller Lodge/Historic District Advisory Board.

The petition reads: “The following citizens petition the county council to delay the start of construction of the skate board park in front of Mesa Public Library and settle the skate board park location issue by ballot in this November's election. We request this issue be addressed at the Aug. 19, 2008 county council meeting to allow time for the question to be placed on the November ballot.”

The petitioners suggest the ballot question state, “Should Los Alamos County build a $500,000 skate board park in front of Mesa Public Library - yes (or) no.”

Wismer explained that the petition was intentionally crafted to be very direct and succinct to allow it to get on the agenda quickly.

Wismer assured council, “If you will ask this question during the fall election, we will live with the answer – whatever that may be.”

Councilors agreed to place the issue on the agenda for discussion as soon as possible.

Councilor Jim West was absent.