Palmetto Bay staffers want to tear down a skateboarding facility at a village park and replace it with soccer fields. They say the skateboard ramps cost too much to operate compared to the number of people who use them, and that they have attracted juvenile delinquents.
In a Monday-night meeting that ran past midnight the next day, Palmetto Bay council members put off deciding what to do with the facility.
Village staff asked for council’s approval for the construction of two small soccer fields in place of a skateboarding area in Palmetto Bay Park, 17535 SW 95th Avenue.
The facility is closed now because of damage to a fence. But when the skateboard area is open, officials said, it gets minimal use and a guard has to be there to make sure kids are wearing their helmets.
“With three kids using the skate park, one person supervising that area, it’s not getting its maximum use,” said Fanny Carmona Gonzalez, director of the village’s Department of Parks & Recreation.
Other officials said the park has turned into a hub for delinquent teens, who do not wear helmets while they skate, draw graffiti and destroy public property.
The village has had to replace a fence surrounding the skating area, needed for safety and liability, about four times, said Carmona Gonzalez. Staff is researching how much money the village has spent to fix damaged property since the skateboard park opened in 2006.
Carmona Gonzalez has not sought input from residents about what they would like in place of the skateboard park, but she said some locals have stepped forward and asked for a soccer field. In addition, staff also proposed the building of two new batting cages and a pavilion at the playground.
The issue of the park’s skating area has resident and former skateboarder Rainer Schael torn.
“On one hand, I want to support the kids that aren’t part of the mainstream and give them a sense of belonging,” he said after the meeting, referring to teens who skateboard. “On the other hand, if you can’t play nice, we are going to take away your toys.”
In other action, the council unanimously approved the upgrade of Coral Reef Park’s tennis court lights, the addition of shade canopies at the court’s sitting area, and the construction of two new batting cages.
For the proposed upgrades to pass, the council had to approve an amendment to the park’s 2004 Master Plan as well as a site plan outlining the changes.
After much debate, council approved the upgrades with the amendment that churches and schools should receive the same consideration given to city parks.
Councilman Patrick Fiore originally proposed these additions to the resolution.
“Either we are all under one big tent or we are not,” he said. “Churches and schools should receive the same considerations under the Neighborhood Protection Ordinance.”
The ordinance aims to regulate nonresidential uses in residential neighborhoods.
Vice Mayor John DuBois further clarified the amendment and said all churches and schools should be exempt from a master plan approval, implying that churches and schools should receive the same treatment as city parks.
Also on Monday, the council voted against a motion asking the village attorney to make public record all zoning litigation pertaining to Palmer Trinity School’s three appeal suits.
Village Attorney Eve Boutsis said that while the appellate court has ruled on one case, the records cannot be released because they are intertwined with another Palmer Trinity case that is still open.
DuBois and Fiore voted to have the records released, citing their desire for transparency.
Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay said the village should not risk losing its confidentiality while part of the litigation is ongoing. Councilman Tim Schaffer also voted against releasing the records, saying that since officials are meeting to discuss settlement issues, the case is still open.
Follow @LidiaDinkova on Twitter.