Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fairfield studies Allan Witt plan

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD -- City leaders on Tuesday expressed hopes and concerns over a proposal to add homes, condominiums and businesses to Allan Witt Park.

The City Council and Community Services Commission met in a study session to discuss the park development proposal and other issues.

Fairfield is talking to Seattle-based Triad about building 532 residences and some businesses in the West Texas Street park. Fairfield would take money from the land sale to build ballfields and an indoor skateboard/teen center at other locations. Part of the park would remain as open space, with such things as playing fields.

The idea has proven controversial. Some people want Fairfield to let the 50-year-old park be. Others say the city plan will help fight crime and graffiti at the park.

"People feel fear when they go down there," City Councilman Jack Batson said. "The average Joe doesn't walk his dog down there because there's fear."

The idea with the development proposal is to bring in people and push out crime, he said.

"If this works, I'm interested in it," he said.

But Community Services Commissioner Maggie Halls said she is torn about what looks like an aesthetically pleasing project. She wondered if this sets a precedent for the city to sell parks when there's a crime problem.

Fighting crime is only one motivation, Assistant City Manager Nancy Huston said. Another motivation is to help business and economic development on West Texas Street, she said.

City Councilwoman Marilyn Farley expressed interest in the proposal. But she wanted to know if Fairfield would merely be replacing what is lost in Allan Witt at other locations, or adding more park and recreation facilities in the long run. She wanted comparisons with Fairfield's existing 30-year park plan.

Also Tuesday, city leaders expressed interest in having Rockville Hills Park someday become part of a regional park district. The 650-acre natural park is near Suisun and Green valleys.

There is a movement to create a regional park district similar to the East Bay Park District in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It would have its own governing body and be funded by some sort of voter-approved tax.

That raises a possibility: Rockville Hills Park could someday be part of this system, instead of being owned by Fairfield.

"What we have in Rockville Hills Park is a regional park," Batson said. "It draws people from all over."

But council members and commissioners added some caveats: The district, if it forms, must show it can take care of Rockville Hills Park. And there must be guarantees the park would never be developed.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or

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