South Bethany officials are discussing the merits of letting the town’s residents vote on building a park on a parcel of donated land.
A resident, Pat VanCleve, approached the South Bethany Town Council during its Dec. 11 meeting, and asked them to put a referendum ballot in the town’s April elections which would allow residents to vote on a proposed park on property donated by the Hall family. The Halls donated the 254,243-square-foot piece of parkland to the town with the stipulation that no more than 10 percent of the land be developed.
Councilman Robert Youngs loved the notion, and immediately offered a resolution for the council to include the referendum in the April election. However, council decided to defer any decision on the matter until it got information regarding the feasability of building a park there, the costs associated with the project and the impact on wetlands delineation. Mayor Gary Jayne suggested the council discuss the issue more at its Dec. 17 workshop/special meeting, rather than vote on it at that time.
Youngs was visibly upset about the decision.
“A referendum is the only way to move this issue forward,” said Youngs. “You’re sidestepping. You’re procrastinating. You’re sidestepping the ability of the people to express their wishes.”
We certainly appreciate Youngs’ passion for getting this done, and we also like the idea of the town building a park. It would be another great outlet for families in the area, and would ensure that Hall’s legacy lived on for generations with a town park.
However, we don’t think that waiting until all the facts are in before committing to a referendum is a bad idea. What if the town receives information later that it would cost a fortune to build a park? What if DNREC has problems with it?
An informed voter is a better voter.
Mayor Pro-Tem Marge Gassinger said that this was the first time the proposed park had come before town council. Jayne suggested that he wasn’t against this going to referendum, he just wanted to see all the information first. Councilman Tim Saxton warned that it might take more than one workshop to disseminate the facts.
A park would be a great asset to the town. But putting something on referendum that might not be allowed would be an embarrassing mistake for the council, and the town.