SP Council Taking More Time to Study Downtown Park
The Southern Pines Town Council will continue to seek public input on a conceptual master plan for the Downtown Park while town officials work on prioritizing implementation and determining how to fund the $7.5 million project over time.
“We’ve had questions about how things could be phased in and what aspects of the plan could be tweaked,” council member Chris Smithson said. “There’s no funding right now, so not adopting a plan until early next year doesn’t change when we might start work.”
Town Manager Reagan Parsons is working with staff to develop a short-term implementation schedule.
“By short term, we mean five years instead of 30 years,” Parsons said. “Prior to adoption, the council wishes to consider shorter-term projects should the overall plan be accepted. They just want to see more data.”
Parsons hopes to present the findings Jan. 28 at the council’s monthly work session. He added that public input will be accepted at least through the council’s Feb. 12 monthly meeting.
“We look forward to receiving further comments and constructive suggestions that will enhance the future of this important community asset,” he said.
The plan focuses on creating more green space. But it also calls for realignment of the basketball and tennis courts, replacing the Rainey shelter, adding a splash pad, building an entertainment pavilion, and creating walkways, among other new features and improvements.
So far, public opinion has weighed heavily against one aspect of the plan: a new three-story municipal building at an estimated cost of $5.5 million. Town officials have said the building, if constructed, would be the last feature to be implemented.
“The building is just a placeholder,” council member Mike Fields said. “The plan is not saying that it will ever be built, but here’s where it could go.”
Smithson noted that even without the building, implementing the plan would still cost more than $2 million.
“We need to figure out how to budget for it over many years,” he said. “We also need time to work on a plan to seek grants and donations.”
“People generally love the overall concept, but there are a few specific items that have raised issues,” Fields said. “We’re not in a real hurry to pass anything. We’ve got to tweak the plan a little bit and look at what makes the most sense.
“We’ve also got to look at our budget and see what we can afford.”
Fields and Smithson agree that replacing the Rainey shelter is a priority.
“I think something should have been done on the shelter a long time ago,” Smithson said. “We need a new shelter and decent bathrooms in the park.”
Smithson also questioned the need for a splash pad.
“It’s not a year-round amenity like everything else,” he said. “A water feature would be more expensive and of more limited use.”
Speculation about the Downtown Park’s future has gone on since 2006, when the town’s old municipal building on Broad Street was demolished. The one-story building had been constructed in the 1950s.
The town originally planned to build a new two-story municipal complex on the site of the old one. It was to include a police station, meeting chambers and administrative offices.
Architects came up with several designs for a new complex, but none were accepted by town leaders or residents. They argued that the building was too big and not in harmony with the surrounding residential area or the downtown.
The park is bound by Broad and Ashe streets and Pennsylvania and New York avenues. On-site amenities include a playground, the tennis and basketball courts, the Rainey shelter, public restrooms and a town administration building.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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