The villain in the great Lents baseball debate is now a single word: "misinformation."
Since the ballpark plan is essentially a private-public business deal that's being hammered out somewhat publicly — with the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee (URAC) deciding whether they should pony up money for the city to invest in a Lents' Beavers ballpark — there has been a lot of confusion and vagaries on all sides. Tonight out at Mt. Scott Community Center from 4-6PM, the city is holding an open house, hoping that several tables of friendly city planners can answer many of the neighbors' burning questions about what all this $42.3 million hubbub is about. Nick Fish and Randy Leonard are even skipping tonight's council meeting to line up with neighbors on opposite sides of the Lents meeting.
URAC member Brian Agee called today to say he was still undecided on the plan, but that his email is filling up with ill-informed, polarized rants from both sides. "I've got an inbox full of, 'Don't do it! They're going to plow over the whole park!' And then I've heard some unrealistic economic projections."
So, for the record, here are much-debated topics and some quick answers. Feel free to check out the five hours of open house/public meeting for the long answers! Bring me a grilledcheeseburger if you come, thnx.
1. Is the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee (URAC) voting tonight on whether to spend $42.3 million in urban renewal funds on building a ballpark? No! Contrary to certain press releases the URAC decided to table a vote on the controversial proposal until next week. Tonight they'll just take public input and ask questions.
More quick Q&A below the cut! Including: Um, aren't two of the proposed options illegal?
2. If the URAC votes next week not to spend urban renewal funds on the stadium, is the Lents Beavers deal effectively dead? Yes! According to the mayor's office, if the neighbors vote it down, the city's done with the whole ballpark-in-Lents shebang. BUT if they approve the money, the stadium isn't a done deal. According to a memo from Amy Ruiz and Skip Newberry in the mayor's office: "Should this project move forward with a City Council-approved pre-development agreement, it is possible that issues may arise during the planning and predevelopment process that render Lents Park nonviable as a site for AAA baseball."
3. WTF does that memo mean? Tonight and next week the URAC is just voting on whether to even make the money available to build the stadium. If the cash is approved, the city, Beavers and the neighbors have to hammer out all the "quality of life" issues like parking, lighting, loss of park land and a good neighbor agreement. If the groups can't agree on any of those, it could derail the deal.
4. Parking?! Did you say parking?! There's not going to be enough parking!! Okay. Thanks to the new green line MAX, the stadium's zoning doesn't technically require any parking at all. But the current draft plans include about 360 spaces, which is probably the most controversial part of the early drawings because the lot eats up about two to five acres of previously-green park.
5. Since the $42.3 million pricetag makes people cringe, couldn't the URAC approve less? Uh... maybe! The URAC right now is looking at six official options, two of which only put $27 million from the Lents URA in and take $15 million from the Central City URA to cover the gap. But the URAC could write up an entirely new idea to recommend to city council.
6. Wait, is it legal to take $15 from the Central City URA to build a ballpark in Lents? Probably not! "You can't take money from a URA when it hasn't actually been created yet," says Newberry, in the mayor's office. If anyone happened to file a lawsuit about the shell game economics of dipping into the still-fictional Central City URA, it could derail and kill the whole deal.