By Sean Tubbs
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The golf course on the eastern side of Charlottesville’s McIntire Park will make way for other uses if a master plan recommended Wednesday by the city’s parks and recreation advisory board is adopted by the City Council .
The board voted 7-2 on a transitional plan that would give the First Tee of Charlottesville time to find another course to serve as its primary location.
“The golf experience would remain in the park, but it would revert to passive area no later than January 1, 2020,” said Brian Daly , the city’s director of parks and recreation.
The area on the north side of the park would immediately be reserved for a botanical garden . That would give a nonprofit foundation time to raise funds to get their project off the ground with potential expansion after 2020.
Three concepts were taken through the public planning process, which has been underway since last September. The board’s discussion was launched by a new conceptual drawing that had not previously been seen by either its members or the public; phasing the transition was its main update.
“What we’ve done at this point is take the universal comments that have been received and worked really hard to come up with a concept that is thoughtful and meets the community’s desires for how the land should be used well into the future,” Daly said.
Daly said staff suggested a phased approach because access to the park will be limited during the construction of the city’s portion of Meadow Creek Parkway and its grade-separated interchange with U.S. 250 .
The new concept would relocate the McIntire skate park to the southern end of the park. The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial would remain in place.
The wading pool would remain in place through Labor Day of next year and then would be closed to provide room for the skate park.
A new pedestrian connection would be made to link Charlottesville High School with the northern edge of the park. That would also allow the CHS parking lot to be used to support the eastern side of the park.
Board member John Kammauff voted against the recommendation. He said he had hoped there would be some additional investment in the course to make it more attractive to golfers.
“I figured it would have the opportunity to have the chance to thrive, but with a drop dead date it will have no chance at all,” Kammauff said.
Sean McCord also voted against the plan. He said he has never played a round of golf, but had come to support keeping the sport at McIntire Park during the public input process.
“I feel like that as a citizens’ board making recommendations that we have a responsibility to represent this constituency of people who have been coming to the golf course for 70 years,” McCord said.
However, other members of the board wanted golf to be out sooner.
“I think it would be a shame to have to wait until 2020,” said John Foster Jr.
Ned Michie said he supports the First Tee of Charlottesville, but the transition period would give the program time to find new partners such as Albemarle County , as well as private golf courses.
He said he sympathized with people who currently pay $5 to play at McIntire, but the city had a larger constituency for whom to provide parks.
“Our city of 10 square miles devotes 120 acres to golf,” Michie said. “We’ve had master plans since 1972 that took golf out of this park. “This central park should revert to the rest of the citizens.”
A motion to remove the sunset clause failed, as did another to shrink the course to three holes.
“Taking a chunk out of the south of the park is not going to be a good experience for golf and it may foreclose other things that could happen in the park,” said board member Dave Hirschman.
During the initial discussion, Michie wanted to know why a rectangular field was not part of the master plan. Staff responded that the topography of the land was not suitable for a large field.
“Our thought if we look at expanding fields in other locations, this might not be the best place and there might be other places around the city,” said parks planner Chris Gensic.
Planning Commissioner and parks board member Dan Rosensweig asked if they had considered a smaller field for practice or non-organized sports. He said the city’s Comprehensive Plan called for more fields.
“European communities in urban parks tend to have taller 30-feet by 50-feet fenced-in yards so balls stay within,” Rosensweig said.
The board directed staff to find room on the northern edge of the park for a small rectangular field.
Staff will redraw a new concept that depicts that field as well as a pathway leading to the middle of the golf course.
The plan will now go before the Planning Commission and the City Council later this year.
“Public comment will remain open until City Council hits their gavel,” Gensic said.