City receives gift of 3.6 acres for future park

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Walter Tatum wants to honor his late wife, Francis, with a generous gift to the city of Salisbury.
Tatum has offered 3.6 acres of North McCoy Road property, including his house, as a future spot for a neighborhood park.
The property is “dead center” within the Meadowbrook and Milford Knoll neighborhoods between Statesville and Jake Alexander boulevards, Parks and Recreation Director Gail Elder White said Tuesday.
“It’s a very attractive piece of property,” City Manager David Treme said.
Salisbury City Council agreed to hold a public hearing Oct. 21 seeking citizen input on whether the city should accept the property for future development as a park.
Elder White said as a neighborhood park, it would be “not a drive-to, but a walk-to” recreation facility.
The city already has done some legwork behind the proposed gift.
In August, the Parks and Recreation Department sent out 375 invitations to property owners within a half-mile radius of the site. City officials then held a Sept. 4 informational meeting with those residents at Milford Hills United Methodist Church on Statesville Boulevard.
About 40 people attended, Elder White said. Many in the crowd were supportive of the park proposal, but some were opposed, she said.
Last week, the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Advisory Board looked at three possible options related to the property.
Option 1 would be retaining the house, paying $2,000 to $4,000 for a survey, making $10,000 to $20,000 worth of repairs to the house and paying for its ongoing operating costs.
Option 2 would include the $2,000 to $4,000 survey, $20,000 to $40,000 for demolition or the possible sale and moving of the house.
Option 3 would be to decline Tatum’s offer.
Options 1 and 2 would require the city to prepare the site and create a park. Elder White said the development costs for a neighborhood park are $50,000 to $75,000, not including the site preparation.
She said adding 3.6 acres to the Maintenance Division’s workload also would require the addition of a building and grounds worker to maintain current levels of service.
The Advisory Board favored Option 2, which would demolish or remove the house from the property, if it is accepted for a park site.
One reason for the informational meeting and a public hearing is that Meadowbrook and Milford Knoll don’t have active neighborhood associations.
Elder White said the Parks and Recreation Department’s Master Plan calls for more neighborhood parks, and this property would help address some of that need.
Councilman Bill Burgin said the city’s Land Development Ordinance expects new residential developments to set aside areas for recreation. He and other council members said Tatum’s offer might be a great opportunity.
Burgin said it looked “kind of like a natural to me.”