Plantation Acres residents protest mayor's plan to sell park

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Lisa J. Huriash

Published August 7, 2013


PLANTATION -- Furious that city staff referred to their neighborhood park as a "beer" park compared with the "champagne" ones, residents in upscale Plantation Acres are protesting plans to sell off 15 acres to a developer.

"It's a 'beer' park because the city never did anything to make it a better park," said John George, president of the Plantation Acres Homeowner's Association.

In an effort to recoup costs to cover a budget shortfall that could range from $2.9 million to $4.9 million blamed primarily on the cost of rising employee pension benefits and health insurance Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic had suggested selling 15 acres of North Acres Park, on Northwest 21st Court, which only has a small playground. The land, in two parcels, could net the city more than $2.2 million. 

But Councilwoman Lynn Stoner said she will request the issue be addressed separately at a public meeting to allow residents to say "yes we use it, we don't want to lose it."

"They are speaking very loudly right now, and I think they should be heard," Stoner said.

Bendekovic, who lives in Plantation Acres, said there is a great public need for her plan. She said few people use the park she wants to sell, compared with the others, and years ago was zoned for an elementary school. She said this is a way to balance the budget. 

"In the city of Plantation, parks belong to all the taxpayers of Plantation," she said. "It just happens to be in the Acres. Every single park is paid for by every taxpayer in Plantation."

The plan would allow the land to be sold to developers for housing, creating a stream of new property taxes. Bendekovic said that at the most, 11 acres would be developed after easements and road construction are taken into account. 

But Connie Freund, a board member on the Plantation Acres Homeowner's Association, wants to see five acres kept free for drainage issues.

"I would not want to see 30 more homes which would mean 60 more cars and create more of a traffic issue," she said. "This whole area is zoned agricultural and when people do ride [horses], they have to watch out for their life."

George, the association's president, said he also worries about traffic and isn't happy to lose a park that he says maintains property values.

"They are making us pay for more than half of the city's sins," he said. "If the mayor wants to do something, she should raise taxes and let everybody contribute to the shortfall, that's the most equitable way. The way it is now, we have to pay. It's unfair. The city has a shortfall and they are putting the burden on the people of Plantation Acres."