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Spa City sued over rec center

Friends of the South Side Park has fought the project since the site was shifted to the South Side Recreation Fields, near Vanderbilt and Lincoln avenues, earlier this year.

Aside from the zoning issues, they have argued that the 33,000-square-foot structure will present an eyesore, increase traffic in the neighborhood and limit the outdoor use that is already enjoyed at the site.

A location on Weibel Avenue was initially proposed, but many, including Mayor Scott Johnson, said the facility should be located closer to the city center to make it more accessible to foot and bike traffic.

William Mirabile, whose name appears on the lawsuit, appeared at the planning board meeting and argued that Vanderbilt Avenue will be clogged with cars if the facility is built.

"Enforcement is going to be tough," he said of a proposal to limit parking to one side of the street. "Do you really think that signs are going to stop people from parking in front of our houses?"

Resident Jeff Olsen said that trading outdoor space for indoor facilities at a cost of $6.5 million doesn't make sense.

"South of Union Avenue in this city, there is not another playing field," he said. "I'm concerned that we're going to lose a lot more than we gain."

Planning Board Chairman Clifford Van Wagner disagreed, noting that fields will remain on the site.

"It also brings a benefit that can be used 365 days a year," he said of the recreation center.

The field space will measure 40,500 square feet, according to the site plan. The building is to contain racquetball courts, a large space for four basketball courts, a walking track and a multi-purpose room. Outside, a spray park will be maintained, and existing playground equipment will be relocated and added to.

As the city was plagued by money trouble later in the year, some questioned whether the facility should be built at all. Having already been bonded, though, the city would take a $900,000 financial hit if the project were abandoned.

Instead, officials chose to push the operational expenses of the new facility into 2010, when the building will be opened.

The City Council recently voted to proceed with the project with a 3-to-2 vote on its environmental impact. Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim and Department of Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco dissented.""

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