Daphne residents rally to save tiny park

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 9/14/22

DAPHNE — Daphne residents and downtown business owners have asked city council members to save a small park from being developed as a commercial property.The Daphne City Council voted in …

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Daphne residents rally to save tiny park

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DAPHNE — Daphne residents and downtown business owners have asked city council members to save a small park from being developed as a commercial property.

The Daphne City Council voted in December 2021 to approve a request by the Daphne Downtown Redevelopment Authority to lease a 25-foot by 112-foot parcel for 50 years. The property is located at 1761B Main St. near Daphne City Hall.

At the city council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6, Dorothy Overstreet, the owner of Kitchen on Main, a restaurant next to the parcel, said developing the property could cause her business to close. She said many customers take meals to eat in the park.

"If I lose one table, I'm not going to make it," she said. "We're not going to make it. We're not going to be able to stay open. So, where do you have growth in commerce when you have 12 people lose their jobs over two apartments and one small retail, one tiny retail and two apartments. How does that draw any more taxes than what we're paying, what we're doing?"

Resident Trey Morgan said his fellow members of the Jubilee Joggers are among the people who often gather at the park and eat meals from local restaurants.

"We meet there every Tuesday," he said. "There are actually families over there right now. We eat there with our families afterward. We do use the park and have been using the park for over a year now."

He said Centennial Park is designed for children and Lott Park is almost 300 yards away.

"I also view parks not just as an amenity, but a necessity and I feel that to become a necessity, it must be readily at hand and easy to come by," Morgan said. "It must be everywhere around you. I feel like having too many parks is not a problem."

He said officials should be trying to increase the number of parks as the region grows.

"We will continue to grow. Daphne, Baldwin County is seeing rapid growth. There is no doubt. We're going to want green space when all that's done," Morgan said.

Resident John Lake was on the city council when Daphne bought the park. He said he opposed the purchase because the site is better suited for development.

"One of the biggest things that hurts us in downtown Daphne and as a community, we don't have a critical mass of shops and businesses," Lake said. "This will contribute to that mass to be able to draw more businesses downtown. And that's something we've got to look at and we've got to find ways of improving the walkability of downtown."

Lake said that in addition to the other parks, the lawn of city hall is across Main Street from the small park and could be used as more public space with picnic tables and other amenities. He said the small park parcel should be developed as commercial property.

"Put it back on the tax rolls to make money for the citizens of Daphne and also improve the business environment of downtown Daphne, because that's the one thing that we're having a hard time with is we don't have that critical mass of businesses that will make people want to come down here," Lake said.

Antonio Notarangelo, who owns Downtown Cigars on the south side of the park, said closing the park will affect many people in the downtown community.

"There's a lot of people who use the park, whether it's for dogs, whether it's for kids, grownups, lunches, dates and things like that," Notarangelo said. "Everybody's going to have to find a new home and move things around. It would affect businesses around us."

He said the city should try to improve the site by picking up trash and improving parking.

Mayor Robin LeJeune said city officials care about the businesses and people who live and visit downtown.

"We welcome anytime y'all would like to come, please come to the city council meetings and express your opinions," LeJeune said. "We appreciate that, and we enjoy all y'alls' businesses down there. We don't want to do anything to harm those businesses. I don't think the council wants to do anything to harm those businesses."

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