By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY — Kevin Pinaire wanted to get his message across to the Floyd County Commissioners on Tuesday night, and he brought along several of his friends for support.
Pinaire and others who crowded the Assembly Room at the Pine View Government Center were there to oppose the idea of building a new baseball and softball complex next to Northside Christian Church along Charlestown Road and near the Interstate 265 interchange. Pinaire — along with other residents of Highland Oaks subdivision near the proposed site — said putting a Little League facility with more than 300 parking spaces and lights in the area would ruin their neighborhood.
“I am not a fan of what is being proposed,” Pinaire told the commissioners. “It’s a huge safety situation for our neighborhood. A huge amount of children play in our neighborhoods because we don’t have a traffic issue — there is one way in and one way out. And 95 percent of the people who purchased their home in Highland Oaks did so because of the seclusion.”
New Albany Little League President Mark Boone announced at a press conference earlier this month that the organization will move forward with the proposal, even if the city pursues its own plan to build a multiuse park at the Hoosier Panel site — which New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan gave details about Tuesday night.
New Albany Little League plays its games at fields along Mount Tabor Road, but the property has been widely seen as inadequate for the organization due to space and safety issues. Boone said at the press conference that the league has a purchase agreement in place with Northside Christian Church for the 33 acres of property, and the first phase of the project — including land acquisition — will cost $3.8 million. It will include six fields.
The commissioners and Floyd County Parks Board recently passed resolutions in support of the Little League project. The commissioners would have to give the project their blessing before it can move forward. It has still not been determined how much money Floyd County will contribute to the project.
“[In accordance with the county’s masterplan] we had talked about a parks district on that side of Floyd County,” said Commissioners’ President Steve Bush. “What spurred this on is the Little League ... they came to us three or four years ago. We will look at that as a parks district and see what finances are involved. This is in the very beginning stage.”
Several residents spoke about the proposal, including Tom Graham, who received a standing ovation from fellow neighbors following his presentation. He said there are other parcels of land not surrounded by neighborhoods in the city that would be more suitable for a Little League complex.
“Why are you looking to turn green space into a commercial site?” he asked the commissioners. “Why are we working against our own community leaders? Our solitude will be destroyed. There will be waves of traffic on Kamer Miller Road, and Highland Oaks will not be safe.”
Graham added that putting a Little League complex in the two-mile fringe area along Charlestown Road would also prohibit inner-city children from participating in the league.
“This will only increase the division between the haves and have-nots,” he said. “How can they make it all the way out Charlestown Road? Please reconsider this and work with the city for the common good of the community.”
“I implore our city and county officials to work together on this and other parks initiatives,” Highland Oaks resident Bill Grover said. “I don’t want Charlestown Road to become [like Louisville’s] Dixie Highway.”
Pinaire said he knows the land will be developed at some point, but several stipulations need to be in place, including not connecting Charlestown Road with Highland Oaks Drive and building a 5- to 6-foot berm between the park and subdivision, before a plan is approved.
“We are not against talking about a park for everyone to use. This would devastate our neighborhood,” he said.
Bush said commissioners will take all comments under consideration.
“Everything is preliminary ... it’s ongoing,” he said.
FOX TAKES LEAVE
Bush announced Tuesday night that the board’s attorney, Rick Fox, has taken a leave of absence.
Fox, 58, was arrested earlier this month for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Fox was charged with two counts of OWI, class A and class C misdemeanors.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Fox said when contacted at his office the day after his arrest. “I have retained counsel and the process will work itself out.”
There is no timetable on his return.