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City approves new parking at Whittier Park for spring

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published April 21, 2015

ROYAL OAK — Despite an 11th-hour effort by a couple of concerned neighbors, paving and parking will be added to Whittier Park.

The neighborhood park, located along Potter, Alexander and Farnum avenues, has become a busy destination for activities like basketball, tennis and the increasingly popular pickleball. The park contains soccer fields, pickleball courts, tennis courts, playground equipment, picnic areas and green space.

In response to complaints filed at City Hall regarding residential streets serving as a parking lot for the recreational destination, officials proposed using Community Development Block Grant money to add a parking area.

City commissioners voted unanimously April 13 to approve the funding for the park project. The CDBG park improvements will cost about $300,000.

City officials said that three years ago, the neighborhood school across the street was demolished and replaced with nearly 25 new single-family homes. They said the school site once provided off-street parking when school was not in session, but park visitors now park on the street throughout the neighborhood, which creates congestion and dissatisfaction.

According to City Engineer Matt Callahan, the plan to add a parking area includes altering the curb line along the east side of Potter Avenue to accommodate about 40 angled parking spaces where 18 spaces are now. Callahan said the work will push the sidewalk about 8 feet into the park, resulting in that amount of lost parkland. New sidewalk will be constructed adjacent to the altered curb line. The site will be graded and seeded to create a soccer field.

But not all residents are happy with the plan.

Potter Avenue resident Matt McKittrick, along with another Potter Avenue neighbor, voiced dissatisfaction with the plan. They said that the parking lot is not welcome and its presence would bring down home values in the area.

“The people that live across the street from that, that parking lot is going to be there 24/7/365. We’ve got to live with it,” McKittrick said.

McKittrick said that he felt none of the commissioners would want a parking lot across from their homes.

“The question was raised to us twice, ‘Would you want a parking lot across the street from you?’” said Mayor Jim Ellison during the meeting. “My answer to that is, if I had a park across the street from me, and I was having a problem with cars parking in front of my house so I couldn’t get in and out of my driveway, then yes, I would want a parking lot across the street from me.”

Ellison said the joy of living across the street from a park also is there 365 days a year.

“And if anything, I think it increases your property value,” Ellison said.

City Commissioner Kyle DuBuc lives in the neighborhood and said he has spent a lot of time in the park and talking to numerous neighbors in the area.

“I get that living right across from the park is a blessing and a curse,” he said.

DuBuc said it was made a priority by the Parks and Recreation Committee and made a project for CBDG funds because of the great number of complaints from neighbors in the area about parking congestion.

“No matter what we do here, someone is going to be left somewhat unsatisfied,” DuBuc said. “But I think what this proposal is, is a reasonable compromise that meets the need of residents who utilize the park.”

The unanimous commission approval also included work at Waterworks Park: removing the U-shaped driveway along Lloyd Avenue and restoring the curb, building sidewalks and seeding the area to restore it to useful park property. Improvements at Waterworks Park also include resurfacing and painting the tennis courts, which city officials said are in such deteriorated condition that they are not in use and present major trip hazards.

City officials anticipate the improvements at Whittier Park and Waterworks Park could begin in early May and be completed by early summer.