Citizens' group proposes restrictions on selling park land

Apr. 23—Any future sale of park property would require a public vote under an ordinance proposed by a group of Clinton petitioners.

One of the petitioners, Les Shields, discussed the proposal with the City Council Tuesday night and left with an arrangement to work toward consensus on the ordinance with pair of Council members, Gregg Obren and Rhonda Kearns, regardless of the outcome of the petition drive.

At present, five petitioners have been sworn in by the city, according to Shields, who added that number could easily grow. The ordinance language they are seeking signatures for states: "The City of Clinton may not dispose of any City owned Public Parks or any portion thereof by gift, sale, or by long-term lease that would result in developing undeveloped City Park land nor act to alter the status of property designated as a park without first submitting the proposal to the qualified electors of Clinton, Iowa, and obtaining a majority vote in favor of the proposed sale, gift, or lease. This ordinance shall apply to existing public parks and to all property designated as public park space in the future."

The group has 180 days from the start of the petition drive on April 12 to collect 1,500 signatures from registered voters.

Shields urged the Council to consider the intent of the proposal and said language in it can be changed to assuage concerns, such as the affect it would have on long-term leasing of park property, such as in the case on NelsonCorp Field, the Showboat theater and the marina

Shields said they are amicable to changes, but also said the leases do not change the character of the public parks, so the ordinance would not apply.

Although the petition effort grew from controversy regarding the city selling DeWitt Park to YWCA Clinton for construction of a supportive housing facility to aid people experiencing homelessness, Shield said he wanted it to be clear that, "the proposed ordinance has nothing to do with the sale that is already finalized. The proposed ordinance was for park property in the future."