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Granite Shoals tables ordinance to prohibit sale of city parks

Granite Shoals city parks

The green areas on this map represent the 19 city parks in Granite Shoals. Eighteen of those parks were deeded to the city by Sherwood Shores Property Inc. in 1977. Courtesy map

The Granite Shoals City Council tabled an ordinance prohibiting the sale of parkland at its regular meeting Tuesday, March 8. The action came immediately after agreeing to move forward with the sale of 0.14 acres of Timberhill Park to an adjacent property owner. 

“The (new) ordinance as written would allow the city to sell slivers of land that have no use as parks,” City Attorney Joshua Katz told the council. 

The Timberhill Park property in question is not connected to the larger park. It is a piece of land divided from the park by a waterway.

The issue of selling parks first showed up on a city agenda Nov. 9 but was put on hold until Katz could put together a report on the city’s authority to do so. The idea was to possibly sell underutilized parks and use the money to improve more popular parks. The city has 19 parks. 

The ensuing outcry from residents against selling any parkland resulted in a request for an ordinance prohibiting the action.

Katz returned to a Feb. 8 council meeting with a resolution instead of an ordinance. He said an ordinance most likely would not stand up in court because it binds future city councils from other options. The council voted to have him come back with an ordinance anyway. Members wanted to make a stronger statement than a resolution.  

Longtime Granite Shoals resident Shirley King, who attended the meeting via Zoom, asked to speak on the issue even though it was tabled. 

“Do whatever needs to be done to tighten up the ordinance,” she said. “Take out all the loopholes to keep people from coming in here to sell the parks anyway.” 

She suggested the ordinance include the history of Granite Shoals parks, most of which are legacy parks dedicated to the city in a 1977 deed from Sherwood Shores Property Inc. Only Quarry Park was purchased with taxpayer dollars, she said. 

“These parks were given to the city with no prior dedications,” she continued. “Y’all will be gone in five years. This needs to all be spelled out clear to save a lot of research in the future.” 

The council also tabled a request to purchase park property on Cedar Hill that mirrors the Timberhill Park purchase request. 

OTHER BUSINESS

The council also delayed discussion of an ordinance requiring property owners to keep grasses and trees trimmed and control the spread of cacti. Looney suggested the ordinance as a way to prevent the spread of fires by keeping small fuels under control.

Mayor Will Skinner took another approach to the issue.

“Have you walked the property the city owns?” he asked. “We are premature in putting this ordinance in play if we don’t have a plan for our own property.” 

He directed staff to come up with a plan for first cleaning up city property. 

“We need to clean up our own backyard,” he said. 

Also slated for the next meeting, which is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, are two items requested by the parks committee: appointing a council liaison to the committee and reallocating unspent salary funds in the current budget on park improvements.

“They are thinking outside the box right now, which is kind of what we need to do to make things happen,” said Place 3 Councilor Samantha Ortis. “We have had so many vacancies for the last six months for salaries for our parks budget. They are asking that we use that money to make our parks safer.” 

Both items should be on the next agenda. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com