Winchester City Council rejects EDA request for land in park
By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Talks on allowing construction of a minor league baseball stadium in Jim Barnett Park came to a halt Tuesday evening after weeks of brainstorming, public hearings and feasibility studies.
Not one member of city council voted in favor of transferring almost eight acres of park land to the Economic Development Authority for the purposes of building a new stadium.
After listening to dozens of concerned citizens speak during the second public hearing, most of them strongly against the stadium, and seeing almost 2,000 signatures collected on a petition against the move in less than a week, council members decided unanimously to vote down the measure.
"I am here for the citizens," said Councilman John Hill, noting that he would like to see minor league baseball come to the community but he heard too many constituents speak up against the move to forward it.
"It is about things that people cherish in life... It's not always about money," Hill said.
While the council members thanked the city staff members and Economic Development Authority officials for all the hours they put into investigating the possibility of bringing the Hagerstown Suns to Winchester, in the end they all agreed that it wasn't the right move at the right location.
"I really hope that we can work... to find another location," said Councilman Evan Clarke, a sentiment that was echoed by some other speakers at Tuesday's regular city council meeting. "The issues in the park are myriad and they really do outweigh the benefits."
He agreed with council President Jeff Buettner that the move could be a positive one for the city, but there were too many concerns with the lease and location.
"It was not one single thing... it was the weight of all of them," Buettner said.
For Mayor Elizabeth Minor, the main problem with the situation was that it would require council to go back on a resolution passed in 1996 promising to not sell any parcel of land in Jim Barnett Park.
"My hope is that this resolution will remain in tact," she said.
Councilor John Willingham said he would "regret, potentially" his vote against the move of land, but he said he was elected to use his head.
"It was always going to be difficult to make this economically viable," he said.