“This is a self-serving idea created by the owners of the HuB and their online groupies.”
“Bottom line is they’re trying to scare you. They’re making up lies!”
“It’s going to become a crack-den, there’s no doubt about it!”
“Wait a second, he doesn’t get to talk!”
These were the kind of words tossed around on Tuesday evening, when residents of the Rosemary District gathered in the fire station on 4th street to discuss HuB Sarasota’s recent proposal to create a community park in the Rosemary district.
The entrepreneurial group – best known for the and thisweekinsarasota.com – began their campaign to transform the vacant lot located on Central and 6th Avenue into a park in February, launching the website rosemarypark.com and going before the city commissioners to propose the idea.
Citing declining property values, a sense of malaise and figures from the American Planning Association, co-founder of the HuB, Rich Swier Jr., argued that a park will help revitalize the area by bringing in traffic and removing an eyesore. One innovative idea being discussed, he said, is having the park be privately owned and maintained, with the land being leased from the city.
Several property owners have objected to the proposal, prompting the Rosemary District Association to hold an unofficial meeting to discuss the matter. A crowd of more than 30 packed into the small room, with people being forced to stand in the hall just to hear the going-ons.
Rosemary District Association President Lori Frary called the gathering a forum, but it quickly turned into a heated argument. Leading the opposition were Pam and Marcus Anise, owners of the. They contended that the park would attract “the wrong kind of clientele,” and create maintenance, security, insurance and parking issues.
Things got heated at several points, as each side interrupted each other to challenge their points.
Sarasota police officer Joseph Snodgrass acknowledged that the police were stretched thin, often assigning the area to a single officer.
As the one-hour meeting came to a close, with the two sides more distant than ever, Swier concluded, “I’m not saying there aren’t serious concerns; I’m just saying they’re not unaccomplishable. The idea is, we all sit together and prepare that plan.”
He invited attendees to send him feedback at rosemarypark.com and suggested a meeting on the matter is forthcoming. The plan will eventually be presented to the city commissioners.