Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 27, 2001

Petition saves railroad park from dismemberment - for now

By Lynda Jensen

The future of the existing railroad park in Waverly remains unclear following a Waverly council meeting Aug. 14.

A petition of 189 signatures successfully persuaded all of the council members, except Mayor Charlie Bush, to avoid re-zoning the park in preparation for commercial development.

Bush pointed out that the five lots at the railroad park, which were discussed at the last council meeting, represent only a portion on the west end of the existing railroad park, not the park in its entirety.

However, three lots on the east end of the park have already been sold as part of the recent railroad redevelopment. The lots were purchased by Metro West Irrigation.

"We knew that," resident Mary Klingelhoets said. In fact, residents lobbying against the sale of the five lots knew from the minute they received their zoning change notices in the mail that the city was talking about that area and objected to what they perceived as dismemberment of the park, resident Dan Stuhr said.

It was also clearly written at the top of a petition what area was being affected by the rezoning - exactly the way that planning and zoning described it, Klingelhoets said.

"The petition says from Sixth Street to the underpass, right at the top," Stuhr said.

Bush was very skeptical of the petition's validity. "I don't believe in petitions," he told the Herald after the meeting, saying that some people who signed it were unregistered voters.

"I asked them 'Are you a registered voter?' before they signed the petition," Stuhr said. "If they said 'yes,' I asked them to sign."

Some young people who were 18, and eligible to vote this fall, were allowed to sign, Klingelhoets said. A few names were also crossed out that were gathered at the gas station because they were not proper Waverly residents, she said.

"They weren't misled," Keith Klingelhoets said, referring to the petition.

Kadlec also pointed out that most of the residents living on the west end of the park attended the meeting, which would demonstrate that they understood the location being discussed, he said.

Bush admitted that he handled the meeting less than well, in relation to the crowd.

Bush explained that another crowd had appeared at the planning and zoning Aug. 7 - and that meeting got out of control, he said, including some swearing.

Bush was determined that this would not happen again.

"They were not on the agenda," Bush pointed out, saying that the group had no right to take up as much time at the meeting as they did in the first place, and that the council was kind in listening to their complaints.

However, according to the minutes of the planning and zoning meeting, the crowd was instructed by Bush to attend the council meeting to voice their concerns.

Early the next morning, after the emotional council meeting, two residents on the west end of the park witnessed Bush making a drive-by inspection of properties there.

Kadlec saw Bush driving slowly by his property, in a truck, with one of the city maintenance men.

"He wants to charge us with a violation to get even," Stuhr said.

Bush took pictures of Stuhr's residence, he said.

There was nothing in the council agenda to indicate that the nuisance ordinance was going to be pursued this month, in fact a fall clean up was tabled until next spring upon Bush's insistence, even though Councilor Ken Hausladen had a date chosen for the clean up - Sept. 8.

Stuhr has dealt with Bush before and never had a problem, he said.

Mary Klingelhoets described Bush's behavior at the meeting as nasty; rushing the meeting along to cut off the crowd.

Bush indicated that since he is an elected leader, this means he is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the public, and not to be dictated as to what decisions to make, Bush said.

"It's his way or no way," Mary Klingelhoets said regretfully. "You go there (to the public meetings) and can't have a say," she said.

"When it's the wish of so many people, those wishes should be honored," commented resident Mary Reardon.

"He didn't have to belittle us," Keith Klingelhoets said. An elected official should respect the huge number of people who want to keep the park intact, he said.

Mary Klingelhoets noted that two other people scheduled that night - the sheriff's department and the city engineer - did not show up, saving some time for the crowd. "People should have some way to have a voice in government."

Kadlec left the meeting disappointed. The two questions he wanted answered - what the impact would be on his property, and what type of business was going to be put into the five lots on the west end - went unanswered, he said.

"I'm not against Charlie," Mary Klingelhoets said. In fact, so far, Bush has been a fairly good mayor, she said, but he underestimated the park issue.

Mary Klingelhoets wanted to know how much the park will be whittled down.

"What people don't understand is that yes, we may have a Memorial Park, but we'll lose where we hold the church bazaar," Stuhr said.

City Attorney Tim Young strongly encouraged the city council at the meeting to avoid dedicating the land as a park, since it must stay this way, he said. Young made a number of references to the council dealing with the property down the road.

In addition, language in the planning and zoning meeting Aug. 7 included the following:

"Future councils or the current council may decide to entertain offers on the sale of the property. The planning commission explained that a park for children to play in with playground equipment is not suitable when located next to the railroad tracks."

There is no playground equipment at the park currently. "We didn't ask for playground equipment," Klingelhoets said.

"They shouldn't even touch that park, resident Charline Macomber said. "It should be the last thing considered."

"We should make it a park forever and ever," Macomber said.

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