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VIDEO: Hudson residents debate future of former Hudson Elementary School parking lot

By LAURA FREEMAN Reporter Published: April 16, 2017 12:12 AM
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The property where the former Hudson Elementary School was located could become designated as open space.

Hudson benefactors, who wish to remain anonymous, have offered to purchase the land at the corner of Division and North Oviatt streets from the Hudson City School District and donate it to the city of Hudson with the designation as open space.

As part of the offer, the benefactors have asked the city to remove the asphalt parking area on the property and leave the entire space as open space.

"We would like input from the neighborhood before the city decides about removing the parking lot," said Jody Roberts, city communications manager. "Therefore, we would like to know if neighbors want the parking area to remain or have it removed and leave the property as open space."

The city invited about 80 residents in the surrounding area to meet with City Manager Jane Howington and Hudson City School Superintendent Phil Herman April 10 at the property site and give their input about the parking. More than 60 attended.

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Residents discussed the benefits of leaving the parking lot as it is, removing all of it or reducing its size.

The benefactors would like the parking lot completely removed, but city officials wanted to know if the residents would agree to that since the parking lot is often used for overflow, said Howington.

"I didn't want the city to tear it up and have the residents be up in arms about it." Howington said.

Although the parking area is used for overflow for special events, a resident pointed out alternative parking lots nearby or parking on the street.

The schools are limited in how they can dispose of property, Herman said. They can sell to another governmental entity, or sell a building to a charter school or put property up for auction.

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"The partnership with the city is important," Herman said. "We can't dispose of property by selling it to anyone who comes along who is interested in it."

The benefactors have talked about contributing money to the city to buy the property from the school district for at or slightly above the appraised value, Herman said.

"That seems to be a good option for the school board and opportunity for the neighborhood," Herman said. "The benefactors feel strongly about the parking lot becoming open space."

Some residents wanted some parking while others didn't want any parking because of problems with overnight parking and drug use. Another problem was drivers pulling in at a fast speed to turn around.

When a show of hands was taken of the residents, the majority agreed to get rid of the entire parking lot.

The benefactors wanted the property to be designated as park land, but the city wants the designation of open space, Howington said.

"This area has drainage problems, and we're hoping that at some point we can put some sub-surface drainage on it with a major retention area." she said.

Council member Dan Williams said park land can't be sold without a vote of residents.

At one time, a developer wanted to build 28 homes on the site.

Some resident were in favor of the property being designated as park land to prevent any future housing development, but the park designation would not allow a large detention system to be built under the ground, Howington said.

"Park land has a lot more restrictions," she said.

When Herman said the benefactors wanted the open space to be for perpetuity, residents agreed to the open space designation.

Council wants the transaction to be cost neutral, Howington said.

Although the benefactors' donation will cover the removal of the parking lot, it won't be enough for any improvements, she said.

"If the city gets the property, there is no money," Williams said. "So don't expect new swing sets or another basketball court."

The playground equipment and basketball court would remain, Howington said. The city would maintain the park as far as cutting grass. Residents could raise money for benches, playground equipment and landscaping.

Residents said they could raise their own funds and follow the leadership example of the benefactors.

Howington said they haven't discussed the options with the benefactors. They were waiting for input from the residents.

No timeline was available, Herman said. There would be meetings with the benefactors, lawyers, the School Board and city Council before any work would be done.

The residents wanted to thank the benefactors for their generous donation.

"It's a great idea," one man said.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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