Master Plan Begins

“We’re not ready yet”

Ballpark presentation made to Town Council

girlSignNoSaleOn June 21st Alan Holt made his final presentation and recommendations on the Ballpark property to the Old Orchard Beach Town Council members. The one comment heard that stuck in my head was, “he has just pulled a rabbit out of his hat”. Mr. Holt came prepared with “Concept #5” – a phased development plan.

After making his presentation to the public on May 31st, Alan realized that opinions lean very strongly towards taking things slowly and being very conservative in developing this property.

Concept #5 allows for proceeding in stages, starting with a community center and proceeding through subsequent development when and if the community feels the need.

Council members will review the materials received from Mr. Holt and conduct a public meeting in the near future.
Let’s make sure we stay advised and involved!

Background

March 23, 2006– Public Forum #1-The first workshop was held at the Old Orchard Beach Town Hall. To the surprise of many, over 100 people attended this first forum, forcing officials to quickly make alternative arrangements for a larger meeting place to hold the next workshop. Attendees were split up into teams and given the task of listing their “Hopes & Fears” for the Ballpark property. At the end of the session each team had a chance to present their lists to the forum. Everyone seemed to share many of the same thoughts at this first meeting and a renewed sense of community spirit hit Old Orchard Beach.

April 6, 2006– Public Forum #2-The second forum was held at The American Legion Hall. 120 people were present to take part in developing the principals that should be used as guidelines for development of the Ballpark property.

April 29, 2006-Community Design Workshop-85 citizens and 35 volunteer professionals worked diligently from morning through late afternoon at the Old Orchard Beach High School. This was the most “hands on” session of the whole process. 13 teams worked in separate classrooms to put their visions on paper. Armed with maps, markers and plenty of ideas they put together visuals of what each team thought would be the best use of the property. These visuals were put on display in the Council Chambers at Town Hall for the month of May.

May 31, 2006-Public Review Session-A final tally of what each team from the workshop had included in their plans was presented to the approx. 60 people in attendance. Four “concept” drawings were displayed, and each person was given a set of 4 stickers numbered 1-4. We were asked to place our stickers on the plans according to which we found most desirable. After hanging around a bit and watching, by the time I left no stickers had been placed. All 4 plans included a community center—which also appeared on every plan submitted by teams during the workshop. But, all 4 plans also included some type of private development including housing and retail. Three of the plans included moving the athletic fields. We were given ample time for asking questions, and many good points were raised—but it seems that not many were happy with the concepts presented.

So—what happens next?

June 21, 2006 – At 7:00, the final report will be presented to our Council Members. Alan Holt, the architectural consultant hired to help lead these forums, will make his recommendations to council based on input from all four community forums. Alan has stated that he will most likely be telling the council that “We’re off to a good start, but we’re not ready yet.” In my opinion, Mr. Holt has done as well as anyone could have. From that first meeting when we were asked to list our hopes and fears—it became quite evident that we definitely have some common fears.

Okay, so you might be thinking “I thought The Good News was going to stay away from politics”. And you’re right—but what needs to be stressed is that this is not a political issue—this is a community issue. The Ballpark property belongs to the community. It is the community that needs to decide what to do with it. During a press conference in 2005 our town manager was quoted as saying, “So our goal in the next 60 days is to educate the public about what can be developed.”

I believe it is the public that has educated our officials as to just how much we care about what happens in our town. Yes, this is an incredibly valuable piece of real estate—but even more valuable is what we have learned about ourselves in the past year.