Online park petition started
Published 5:54 pm Saturday, April 4, 2015
A group of citizens campaigning to turn a vacant piece of land on North Main Street into a park has taken its campaign high-tech.
Monette Harrell, who has been leading the charge, said the group has collected about 1,000 signatures on paper petitions since it started circulating them several months ago.
But now it has started a petition on Change.org and collected more than 300 signatures.
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“A lot of the younger people are on the computer,” Harrell said. “I thought it might reach a different population. We were just thinking we could reach a lot of people in a short time. There are people that probably would like to know about it, but maybe they’re too busy to stop and take time to read the paper.”
The city has owned the site at 1900 N. Main St., the former site of Obici Hospital, since about 2005.
It has languished for years during many false starts at development. The Economic Development Authority now owns the site and hopes to have it rezoned to a mixed-use development. It is now zoned for general commercial development.
The EDA is under contract to sell about 14 acres at the back portion of the site to Waverton Associates for a 224-apartment complex. Retail or office space could be built in the front portion.
But opponents to developing the site say there’s too much traffic already on North Main Street, not enough school capacity for the students who might live in the apartments and rare trees on the site that should be preserved.
Also, Harrell said, it’s just the right place for a park.
“I just hope our city leaders will have some vision and realize that once this space is gone, it’s gone,” Harrell said. “We want them to take a little time to please examine what is the best use the entire city can enjoy and use. Every great city has a great park in the heart of its city.”
The site could be combined with the Virginia Department of Transportation property next door to make an even nicer park, Harrell said. The city is hoping to encourage VDOT to relocate so it can take advantage of the prime location of its space.
Harrell said she can even envision people traveling to the park from out of town.
“Our whole goal has been awareness,” she said. “We help realize there’s definitely another option that would make a wonderful welcome mat for our community.”
Harrell said she draws hope for a park from a recent city publication mailed to citizens.
Referring to the downtown area, “A Report to Our Citizens” states “(T)he opportunity to create a public park/gathering space would enhance the sense of ‘place’ in this redeveloping important district in the city.”