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Playground plan stalls at BoA

Thursday, August 11, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Although those hoping for a playground at Club Creek Apartments will get another shot at a variance next month, it’s not looking promising.

Laura Klein spoke on behalf of the apartment complex’s owner, PPA Group, at the Board of Adjustment meeting on Monday. At the moment, the apartment complex at 502 West Longspur Boulevard is undergoing a million-dollar renovation.

She explained that they want a playground in the community because the 160 units at Club Creek are home to about 100 children. In order to build that playground, however, they need a variance to reduce the setback at the site of the proposed playground from 50 feet to zero feet.

Klein told the board that the only space fitting for a playground borders a neighboring apartment complex to the rear and several homes to the side of the proposed site. Klein said that three neighbors and two homeowners associations support the variance, as does the North Lamar Neighborhood Association. One adjacent neighbor is opposed to the variance.

“It’s the only green space, along that fence. That’s where the kids are already playing,” said Klein. “The playground we are putting there is a typical playground with a slide and some walk-throughs. It’s not going to invite teenagers or anything like that. This is going to be for small children who are already playing with balls on that small greenspace.”

Despite widespread skepticism toward the plan, board members voted to postpone the case in a vote of 6-5, with Chair William Burkhardt and board members Bryan King, Don Leighton-Burwell, Brooke Bailey and alternate Kelly Blume voting in opposition. Board Member Rahm McDaniel was absent.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” said Burkhardt. “And I don’t think this is a terrible idea because it’s adjacent to single family houses. I think it’s a terrible idea because it makes children – which you ought to be celebrating – pushed way out to the least-desirable, farthest location from where they ought to be.”

Board Member Eric Goff said that he was struck by the fact that city code was “trying to protect people that live in detached single-family homes from people that live in multifamily homes.”

“They are all people,” he said. “If this is such a problem, why isn’t there a similar setback for people living in multifamily (housing)? That’s not what’s before us tonight, but I think there’s some other problems in our code that have biases.”

Though it was not what was before the board for consideration, Hawthorne and King both said that they understood the difference not to be a result of bias, but a result in the difference in intensity of use.

Bailey took issue with the placement of the playground in a location where toddlers would have to cross a parking lot. “It seems so unsafe,” she said. “I totally agree with putting it internally for many reasons – security being one of them, noise being another.”

Klein said that she was confident that the playground could not be located elsewhere. She noted that another site pointed out by board members was near a creek and “considered unsafe” by the community due to a large population of homeless individuals.

“That is more scary to the parents than the parking,” said Klein.

As for locating internal to the complex, she said there was a possibility to have two small play areas – not really playgrounds – but pointed out those would not require a variance from the board.

During the discussion, Board Member Michael Benaglio revealed himself to be a former national playground safety inspector who had also run a commercial playground business in the past. He noted that the playground that was laid out in the plans presented to the board “wouldn’t come close” to accommodating the 100 kids that live in the complex.

Photo: [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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