Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Some Signal Mountain residents are going to bat against the Town Council’s recent decision to reopen Norris Field to the public, preparing a petition asking that the field remain for private use only.
“It’s not that I’m against anything organized in the park, I’m concerned about safety,” said Jeff Seay, a Signal Mountain resident of seven years who lives in the neighborhood surrounding the open field and adjoining playground. “With all the additional cars coming into the neighborhood ... to me it’s a recipe for potential accidents to happen.”
Town Manager Honna Rogers assured residents that measures will be taken to control the traffic issue.
“We would space the practices so you don’t have a team leaving and a team coming,” she said. “During the overwhelming majority of the time there will not be extra kids at the park.”
Though some concerns were voiced during the Town Council meeting during which commissioners unanimously voted to reopen the field, Rogers said the report that came to her was “not overwhelmingly against” the decision. Seay and his neighbors say they weren’t given adequate notice of the related discussion with Town Council. Rogers said the topic was posted on the agenda as is usual for the town’s meetings.
If filed, the neighborhood’s petition will be the second of its kind; one was filed more than a year ago when the same issue came up, resulting in the decision at that time that the field would continue to be available for private use only. Seay said he believes there are some legal concerns with the reversal of that decision due to wording in the deed to Norris Field. The land was given to the town on the condition that it continued to be used as a playground, he said.
City Attorney Phil Noblett, who researched the deed upon advising the council in its recent decision, said he had concluded it would be appropriate to use the field as a public practice space.
“There was a reference in the deed ... it specifically called [Norris Field] a children’s playground,” Noblett said. “I think it’s a semantics argument. ... It is being used by children to play.”
Rogers echoed Noblett’s sentiments, saying the property has been used as a ball field at least as far back as 1943.
“[Norris Field] has been used as a practice field for decades,” she said. “It has been historically used that way and we can continue to use it that way.”
Concern for preserving open space in the community is also at the forefront of Seay’s mind, and, in light of the rising number of ball players and the need for more practice space, he said he wants to know what the long-term plan is for the community.
“[Norris Field] is the only green space we have had on Signal Mountain,” he said. “It has been a jewel for this community. What is the town trying to do to resolve this issue [of dwindling practice space]? As a resident, and one affected directly, that’s my two cents.”