Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Skate Plaza Clears Major Hurdle!

In a nail biter of an evening last night at the St. Cloud City Hall, the Planning Commission voted 4-3 in favor of locating the new skate plaza at Heritage Park.

After 4 years of hard work by skate plaza supporters, area youth are now closer than ever to realizing their 15-year dream of having a skate plaza built here in St. Cloud. The only remaining step is for the City Council to approve the Park Board and Planning Commission's recommendations that the skate plaza be located at this site. Their vote will be held on January 25th.

So last night was a critical milestone. Had the Planning Commission voted it down, the City Council would then be required to pass a super majority vote which only allows for 1 dissenter. That would be too close for comfort.

This project has been hugely controversial over the last few months as news that the skate plaza was being proposed in Heritage Park hit the newspapers. People opposed to the project have voiced concerns that the 1/2 acre skate plaza will "destroy the peace and serenity" of the surrounding 92 acre nature park. Many opinion letters have been written to the newspaper, petitions have been gathered and public lynch mobs have appeared at our mayor's town hall meetings.

Here is a satellite image of the site. The purple outline is the skate plaza. The yellow outline is the existing history museum. The skate plaza will sit right up against a busy road, directly across the street from Walmart and Cub Foods, and will not encroach the existing woods or cause any more noise than the traffic from the 4 major roads that already surround the park.

But last night was both frightening and awesome at the same time.

The council chambers was filled with supporters of the skate plaza due to a successful recruitment and Facebook campaign. Of particular note were the children and teenagers who bravely approached the microphone to plea their cases. Kids as young as 5 years old came up and explained why they wanted a skate plaza, and incredibly eloquent teens from the St. Cloud Youth Commission gave nearly tear-jerking praises to the efforts of Austin and the other youth who have done such a fantastic job of "using the process to help realize their cause." I couldn't have been more proud of the youth of this community for their performances last night.

But the opposition was well organized and strongly represented as well. Many people came forward to express their concerns over the usage of the park, safety issues, spending decisions and more. Testimony from both sides went on for an hour and a half before the Planning Commission started their debate.

And that's when it got sticky.

Seven commission members grilled the City Planner and Park Department director with tough questions for nearly an hour. FINALLY one member called for a motion to vote on the site. I had my head in my hands and was sweating in nervous anticipation. HOW WILL THEY VOTE?!!!

And then, as quickly as the motion was raised, someone from the Planning Commission started asking about the possibility of postponing the decision until next month. I thought I was going to explode. But fortunately - the liaison for the City Council stepped in and explained that if they didn't decide at that point, the City Council would still be allowed to vote on it in 2 weeks anyway, so it would be in their best interest to make a recommendation now.

FINALLY... after over 2 hours, a vote was cast. All in favor? Four hands were raised. All oppposed? Three.

The room instantly erupted into applause and cheering. We had done it. We had won.

Now all we have to do is get approval from the City Council. Early indicators show that a majority of the members are already in support of the proposal. Plus, the City Council is always more likely to vote with the Park Board and Planning Commission recommendations. Anyway... nothing is over till it's over, so I'm not going to celebrate just yet.

But I do feel pretty good about this!


April said...

Congratulations!! To you and Austin, of course! I couldn't help but beam for both of you, reading this.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Thanks April! I'm STILL beaming over last night and probably will be all week. Too exciting :-)

Anonymous said...

what a load off your minds! congrats to you all!!! Great work

JD at I Do Things said...


Oh, my gosh, it sounds like a grueling meeting. I would love to have seen those little 5-year-olds!

I'm sure you're proud of yourself AND all those wonderful kids who stepped up to plead their case.


mom said...

Why do I cry when I'm happy? I'm so teary eyed, I can hardly see the keyboard!!! Wish I was there to give you and Austin a big hug!!

Bill said...

Some forget that baseball and football are not the only sports. Skateboarding is getting increasingly popular, and the city does not buy equipment, hire coaches, provide transportation and other expenses. What is not to like, when skateboarders are raising money to silence critics who want them off city streets. The new location is perfect, but remember that NIMBYS would not even want Heaven in their neighborhood.

cyouth have been raising funds, buy their own equipment and will be keep off city streets. As for the NIMBYS, they won't even like heaven if it was located next door.

Mom Thumb said...

Way cool, congrats!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

sis - You ain't kidding. We all slept a little better last night! :-)

jd - Actually, they televise those meetings which are later published to the city web site. I plan on creating a little yootoob clip showing that very thing.

mom - I make sure he sees this. Thanks!

bill - Excellent points dad!

mom thumb - Thanks Linda!!!

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I am so proud of the efforts of everyone. That is so cool, we are even setting aside a big chunk of money to throw in with our 'eventual win' on a big lottery prize.

Michelle said...

Whoo! So glad it continues to move forward. This is such a great experience for him, and I hope it continues to be. Great job, Austin!

I hope you bring that diagram into that meeting. Sheesh!

Roger Miller said...

Congratulations to Austin and everyone involved!

Elizabeth said...

Congratulations Austin and all the suporters. It's sounds like this has been a real fight! I hope it's over soon and you all get your skate park!

Dan said...


Maureen said...

AWSOME JEFF! Congrats to everyone for all their hard work.

Now let's hope this thing gets built before all the people who worked so hard to get it aren't grandparents themselves...

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

carlae - Thanks! And hey, don't think I won't forget! ;-)

michelle - Yeah, I blasted it up on the overhead. It was a great talking point.

roger - Thank you! It's really a huge team/community effort. Austin is just lucky enough to be the poster child for it.

elizabeth - Thank you. You and me both. And about 1000 skaters too!

dan - Hurrah indeed!!!

maureen - I hear that. It's already been 15 years in the making. HOW MUCH LONGER DOES IT NEED TO TAKE?!!!

Unfinished Rambler said...

I'm a little behind here (as usual), but wanted to let you know I'm elated for you, Austin and all the youth of St. Cloud. How cool. And from the map you showed, I don't see why there'd be any opposition to where it is going. Now if it was all in the middle of the park, maybe. But there where it is. Nyuh. I don't think so. Just my own humble opinion.

Good luck on the next step.