Osage Residents Dismayed Over City Plans

Area residents Steven Blench and Terry Lee talk to each other about changes happening in their neighborhood. Photos by Sarah Brown

City Manager Kelcey Young announced the city has initiated work this week to build the new park at Osage Street between 42nd and 43rd avenues during the City Council meeting Tuesday, May 28.

A logger uses a chainsaw to begin cutting down a tree at the corner lot of city-owned property at Osage Street and 42nd Avenue.

The city began removing trees from the property on Tuesday because, Young said, “there has been a high level of security concern” with homelessness and fires. Following year-long talks with Fire Chief Nick Tyler and Police Chief Jason Ogden, they determined thinning out the trees there would make the area significantly safer while also providing a park and increasing nearby property values, she said.

Prior to her announcement, Terry Lee addressed the council during a time for public comment to express his concerns about what is taking place there.

Lee, a long-time resident on 43rd Avenue, noted his frustration with the city’s plans to build a park and install parking where there are not only “drug problems,” but also the fact the park would be situated off a narrow street. He went on to say there are plans to build 10 structures there for homeless or homeless families that the neighbors were not informed about or asked for their input on the matter. Lee added that after the city placed a flex building on the property in the mid-1990s and chip sealed the road, water flowed onto his property, which he was responsible for fixing.

“The deal is, we have problems,” Lee said. “We have issues there. We don’t need anymore.”

He also said he believes there are osprey nests and eagles on the property, the proposed trail at the new park is planned on property not owned by the city, and the city is interested in the money they can make from the sale of the trees.

At an “open house” meeting on May 2 between the city and neighborhood residents to discuss park plans, Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen talked about plans to thin trees out on the property and to use the trees to help fund the park equipment. He alluded that even if the park does not get built, the city still had plans to thin out the forested area.

Returning to his concern about a “homeless compound” being placed in the area, Lee said he can sympathize for families facing homelessness, but not for those who “just want to steal stuff” and don’t want to better themselves.

“The deal is, the communication with the city to the people that actually live there was none,” Lee said. “When we come in here and we talk to you about this, you didn’t tell us you had 10 structures planned to put there.”

Yet, he said, nobody in the city he talked to knew about the alleged 10 structures, nor could they show him any site plans for it.

Loggers look at trees lining Osage Street to determine how best to safely remove them.

“This was not thought out by the city,” he said. “None of us have any say about it. I’ve owned that place for 32 years. I’ve put a lot of money into it and now all of a sudden we’re gonna have a homeless place right across the street.”

Young responded to Lee that nothing has been brought forward to City Council yet regarding emergency family housing.

Young explained to The New Era there are plans to add some additional transitional pods for FAC, as well as find a location to put in four or five cottage-like tiny homes for transitional emergency housing for families with small children.

“Are we looking for safe housing for families with children who are currently going through this transition and don’t have permanent housing? Yes,” she said.

A location near 43rd and Osage is among one of the locations the city is looking at as a possible site for the family houses, but nothing has been established yet to bring before council on the matter.

“If anything were to happen, we would go to council (first),” Young said. “Once we decide on the location and we decide on the site plan, it would go to council.”

Blench and Lee watch as a crane picks up recently-felled trees.

Regarding the neighborhood park, Young explained the city has been talking about that for a year and has made different attempts to inform the community about it (along with other city goals), but she expressed disappointment that not everybody feels the communication has been clear enough.

During the city council meeting, Councilor Lisa Gourley asked if the city took into consideration the bird nests prior to removing the trees. Young responded that “multiple” surveys and reviews were made and no nests were found in that particular area.

For more information about the new park, see our story at SweetHomeNews.com/city-reveals-plans-for-possible-new-park/.

In other business:

  • The council tabled a motion to approve a contract between the city and Ashley and Vance Engineering Inc. for the Sankey Park Phase III project, which would improve sidewalks and trails, replace the old bandstand, and add additional lighting and security cameras. Young recommended the council table the contract because, despite negotiations, the city feels the firm’s costs are still too high and they would like to continue with negotiations.
  • Nancy Patton addressed the council about overgrown grass at 27th Avenue and Foothills Drive, and offered to cut it.
  • Steven Blench, who lives on Osage Street, told the council he was concerned about a lack of communication from the city regarding the felling of trees on city property off Osage Street between 42nd and 43rd avenues. Although the city owns the property, Blench said he believes the city should’ve consulted with the area residents regarding plans to build a park there and tear down trees. Young responded to Blench’s concerns stating the city did try to communicate with residents, but she apologized that it was inadequate. She invited him to meet with her.