The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday night will consider the start of negotiations over the future of Clark Center Park, a new stoplight on Oak Ridge Turnpike in front of the high school, and changes, including rezonings, that could allow a small commercial development near Aldi grocery on South Illinois Avenue.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday, August 11, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.
A resolution to be considered tonight would allow Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson to discuss the future of Clark Center Park with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office. DOE-ORO has said it wants to transfer the park to the city at no cost as long as it remains a recreational park asset for the public.
The Oak Ridge Office now spends about $300,000 per year to maintain the park. One of the questions for city officials is whether Oak Ridge can afford to take over the 80-acre park, which is in south Oak Ridge on Melton Hill Lake. Also known as Carbide Park, it includes two ball fields, two large picnic areas, a small playground, a boat ramp, restrooms, fishing trails, and a beach. It also includes access to the Gallaher Bend Greenway.
The possible transfer is part of the Oak Ridge Office’s assessment of its continued ownership of land across the Oak Ridge Reservation.
Watson has said the proposed transfer is part of a cost-cutting effort in DOE’s Oak Ridge Office, and running a park is not really part of the department’s mission.
If the resolution is approved tonight, Watson is expected to provide Council with a monthly report on the discussions with DOE.
Council members have called Clark Center Park a “crown jewel” park, but city officials have had a range of questions about the proposed take-over, including its impact on public safety and the potential maintenance costs.
The proposed stoplight in front of Oak Ridge High School on Oak Ridge Turnpike could cost about $200,000. The money would come out of the Special Programs Fund, which collected money from tickets issued by the traffic cameras that stopped operating in Oak Ridge in April. The money was designated for traffic safety, school crossings, and bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Oak Ridge City Engineer Steve Byrd said the city has implemented several safety measures at the high school and Turnpike, including crosswalk pavement markings, pedestrian warning signs, flashing school speed limit 20 mph signs, speed enforcement cameras, and use of a school crossing guard during the morning and afternoon school arrival and dismissal times.
In March, Council asked the Traffic Safety Advisory Board to review possible traffic control alternatives to improve pedestrian safety at the crossing and make a recommendation to the Council. Besides the stoplight, other options discussed included a pedestrian hybrid beacon, flashing pedestrian warning sign beacon, a crossing guard, and additional pavement markings and signs.
The TSAB approved the traffic signal in a 5-2 vote in July.
The rezonings and Land Use Plan amendment to be considered by Council tonight would allow a small commercial development on a few acres acres between South Purdue Avenue and South Illinois Avenue near Woodland Terrace East. The property is between Aldi grocery and Weigel’s.