Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 20, 2001

Petition of 189 signatures calls to save railroad park

By Lynda Jensen

A petition of 189 signatures to save the railroad park was presented by a large crowd to the Waverly City Council meeting Tuesday.

The crowd is one of the largest to attend a meeting in recent history, second only to when the council wrestled with the music deejay Greg "Chopper" Lammers a few years ago, Councilor Ken Hausladen noted.

The group vigorously objected to the sale of the railroad park, which represents five lots out of two large sections of land that the city recently purchased from the railroad.

The land runs along the north and south sides of the railroad, which the city is developing commercially.

Previously, a large crowd attended the work session of the council to object to the park's sale, but were overruled by the mayor, city attorney, and planning commission, according to city minutes.

The group, and petition, were dismissed by Mayor Charles Bush.

He indicated that it was too late to prevent the park from being sold, even though the city was taking action that night to re-zone the property from industrial to commercial use, which is one of the first steps in making the property available.

Residents reacted with anger, pointing out that 189 people represented a good portion of the community.

Bush indicated that the survey misled people with vague language.

"The intent of the survey is clear, and very understandable," resident Beatrice Hausladen said angrily.

Resident Dan Stuhr suggested Bush go door to door to residents living near the railroad park, to understand exactly how they felt.

"I don't have the time nor the inclination to go door to door," Bush said. He indicated that since Waverly residents live in a democracy, it was their right to attend the meeting and object. However, Bush indicated that he was elected to make decisions, and that he would do so regardless of how they felt.

Bush indicated that he would not be swayed into action by a dozen people. The crowd pointed to the petition, saying that many more people were concerned about this. They also told Bush that he should respect the will of the people on this issue.

"Do any of you live there?" Joe Kadlec asked, pointing at the council members.

"We all live in the City of Waverly," Bush said.

"No," Kadlec said. "Do any of you live near the park?" Kadlec asked. None of the councilors answered him.

Kadlec asked them if they were going to put a gas station there, or something else that would affect his property value. He also indicated that a park would be a nice buffer to commercial property to the east.

Council members noted that the railroad park has been discussed for quite some time without any objections.

The subject has been discussed by the city council for the past five months, or ever since it approved a quick claim deed for the property during its May meeting; although it was not specifically reported that the city would dismantle the railroad park.

Residents told the mayor that it was never part of the plan to sell the park along with the rest of the property.

"We want to preserve the park," resident Keith Klingelhoets said.

The crowd pointed out that even though the city didn't own the property until this year, it cared for it and installed items there that signified the purpose of keeping it as a park.

"Why did the city pay for mowing and plant trees?" Mary Klingelhoets asked.

"Since 1983, I saw the city plant the trees. They've grown and they're beautiful," resident Charline Macomber said. "They shouldn't be knocked down!"

"The sign is already up," Hausladen said, saying the Realtor wasn't chosen at the last meeting.

The council did authorize Bush and the land committee to go ahead with choosing the Realtor at the last meeting, Clerk Debbie Ryks said. Dan and Collene Fogarty are the real estate agent, she said.

Bush instructed the crowd to raise their hands when talking, and that all who wanted to speak would be called on. Then, two thirds through the discussion, Bush refused to allow people with their hands raised to speak, saying it was time to move on with other items on the agenda.

This frustrated the crowd, since there were still two people with hands raised, waiting to be heard.

Keeping the park would mean money lost for a commercial tax base, Bush said. "It would be excluding $80,000 in potential development that we control, and the tax revenue," he said.

"When I came, there was no tax base," Bush said.

The idea is to attract businesses and commercial development, to shift the tax burden more easily around for Waverly residents, Bush said.

The crowd remained unconvinced that this was a sound reason to demolish the park.

The park is used for the Memorial Day service, and contains a five-foot high stone lighthouse, veterans markers, and other items used by residents.

"I don't know how much green space the city can take," Bush said.

There are two parks in the city, and one small park located at the lake, resident Mary Reardon said. "Is that too much green space?" she asked.

"Obviously, there are a lot of residents who are concerned about the green space," Hertzog said.

Bush pointed out that it will probably be the last to sell.

Attorney Jim Young indicated that the city should decide now if the park will remain a park because it will impact the rest of the property for sale.

"I didn't run for this office to be popular, and I don't know if I will run again," Bush said.

"I'd like to see this pulled off the table right now," Councilor Ken Hausladen said, suggesting that the five lots for the park be omitted from the rezoning plan.

John Hertzog echoed this sentiment, saying he would second that motion.

All of the council members voted in favor of doing this, with Bush voting against it.

This leaves the park as an out-lot, which makes it possible to sell later, Young said.

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