Aurora -- Despite opposition from a handful of residents and City Council reps present at the June 4 meeting, planning commission members unanimously favored and sent to Council a site plan for a proposed new parking lot near Kiwanis-Moore Playground.
Council then approved the project at its June 9 meeting, with three members opposed.
Under Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin's plan, Field 3 would be paved to create 45 parking spaces, which she said would benefit those attending ball games and patrons of nearby businesses.
Council passed legislation for the city to spend $90,000 for the parking lot, enhancements to adjacent Field 4 and a walking path -- possibly lighted -- at the city-owned recreation complex.
Womer Benjamin said since the city recently completed the new varsity softball field, elimination of Field 3 would not reduce the number of fields available for youth baseball and softball games.
At the planning commission session, City Economic Development Director Jack Burge, Chamber of Commerce President Brad Duguay, Councilmen John Kudley and Harold Hatridge and owners of a couple of nearby businesses spoke in favor of the new parking lot.
"Businesses in the center of town need some help, and access and parking are important aspects to keep businesses successful," Burge said. "This would enhance access and parking."
Supporters of the plan also cited the benefit of additional parking to the Church in Aurora, Red Rock Farmers Market, the library and Aurora Community Theatre.
"THERE ARE a lot of activities going on in this area, and sometimes people attending library or theater events have to park along East Pioneer Trail," said Aurora School of Music owner Vera Holczer. "This should eliminate the need for that."
However, three Council reps opposed the proposal, questioning the elimination of the ballfield, the cost and the need for the new lot.
"I've received 28 emails opposing the plan," said Councilwoman Amy McDougald. "Removing the field is a big concern, and I don't see an immediate need for the new lot. I think we [city officials] should take some time and rethink the issue."
"The parks and recreation committee has fought for more fields, and now the city wants to take one out," said Councilman Dennis Kovach. "A lot of people I've talked to do not agree with the plan. I think there's plenty of space to park nearby."
Councilwoman Reva Barner also said many people she's talk to would be disappointed to see the field removed. She suggested putting the $90,000 toward sidewalks "to get people to the center of town."
"If this issue is placed on a ballot, I think most people would say 'no,'" she concluded.
Resident Rita Scott said she believes if businesses need more parking, they should fund it, not the city. She also read parts of a letter from resident Robert Davis, who is also opposed to the proposal.
Two other residents favored the parking lot. Jack Updyke said he "doesn't see a downside" and "more parking will draw people to the city." Nearby business owner John Lazor said the parking would help businesses "if connectivity also is part of the plan," and it would alleviate safety hazards for drivers exiting businesses onto Route 43.
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