Public Says ‘No’ to Rec Site; Council Seeks County Input

RIDGEWAY – Just days after holding a special meeting to discuss the potential of relocating a County recreation center, proposed for a plot of land next to a recycling center on Highway 21 outside of town, into the heart of downtown, Town Council voted during their regular meeting on Jan. 8 to present that option to the County. And while only one member of the community spoke out against bringing the center to the corner of Church and Means streets during the Jan. 5 special meeting, four more voiced their opposition on Jan. 8.

“I don’t want it to be an eyesore,” Jim Moss told Council. “You’ve got a half a million bucks to work with, and I know (you’re) talking about a metal building. That really is not very attractive and a half million bucks I don’t think builds a whole lot, once you throw in permits, architects and engineering fees.”

Moss’s wife, Vickie Moss, asked Council why they would want to lease over to the County a landmark site that was already a park-like setting. She said she was not in favor of the aesthetic of a metal building or the congestion and traffic it would bring. William Mattox, who lives directly behind the existing softball field at the 5-acre site, said he was also concerned with the potential of additional traffic in the area, while Angela Harrison said one of the things that make Ridgeway special is that it has remained largely unchanged over the years.

“People come to Ridgeway because it has remained the same,” Harrison said. “It’s quaint. It’s maintained that charm for other people. They won’t come here because we have a rec center; they come because we are what we are.”

Harrison also said she was under the impression the area was going to be part of an overall beautification project and remain green space.

Councilman Russ Brown, who has spearheaded the push to ask the County to consider relocating the center from the proposed site on Highway 21 across from Smallwood Road, said before the vote that there was plenty of room on the Church and Means streets site for the facility.

“We’ve got 5 acres over there and you’re talking about a 4,400-square-foot building,” Brown said. “An acre is 43,560 square feet. With 5 acres, we can maintain the arch, which everybody wants to do. The ball fields will stay there. You have the walking trail, so maybe having something over there will be an incentive for people to use that facility more often.”

Brown also said that the town has an architectural review board in place that could ensure the facility fits in with the town’s aesthetic and isn’t an “eyesore.”

Councilman Donald Prioleau said the idea was to put the facility in the corner of the lot, where the former Town Hall was once located. That would also help alleviate the traffic congestion on the other end of the property, he said.

“I feel sure the space is there,” Prioleau said. “Let’s try to give our citizens, especially our youth, something to do in our community.”

Mayor Charlene Herring reminded Council that the facility was intended to serve all of District 1, and not just the town of Ridgeway. And while Council had heard from Ridgeway citizens, they had not received input from residents of the district at-large. Councilman Heath Cookendorfer also told the audience that Council was, at this point, only on a fact-finding mission. No final decision had yet been made on relocating the facility, he said.

“I did not know there was going to be a rec center here until I saw the sign go up (on Highway 21),” Cookendorfer said. “We may find out it doesn’t fit our needs (in town), that we don’t have the space for it. All we’re going to do now is finding out more information. We’re not making any decision.”

Cotton Yard Lease

Council also passed on a 3-1 vote first reading of an ordinance to lease property in the center of town, known as the Cotton Yard, from Norfolk-Southern Railway for $300 a year. Mayor Herring and councilmen Brown and Doug Porter voted in favor, while Prioleau voted against. Cookendorfer did not register an audible vote.

Herring said the Town is also reviewing liability insurance policies for the property, one for approximately $700 and another for $2,000. Council made no decision on the policies at the Jan. 8 meeting.