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Public hearing on park purchase proposal tonight

The Dollar General store on Superior Street on Friday, January 3, 2020 in Webster City, Iowa.

The Webster City City Council is holding a public hearing tonight on a proposed offer from commercial developer The Overland Group to purchase part of East Twin Park.

The hearing will take place during the regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the City Council chambers at City Hall.

Last week, the city council held a special meeting in order to set the public hearing for tonight’s meeting. On Thursday, City Manager Jeff Sheridan sent out a press release explaining that the city had been approached by The Overland Group, a commercial developer out of Birmingham, Alabama, asking to purchase city-owned land in order to build a new Dollar General store. The current Dollar General Store is located in a leased building at 814 Superior St.

The property, 1100 Superior St., is home to East and West Twin parks. The Overland Group is asking to purchase 1.25 acres of East Twin Park, leaving about a quarter of an acre on the block as city property.

According to the release, the city offered other city-owned properties and vacant commercial sites as alternatives for the development, all of which were declined by the developer.

“This was not taken lightly by staff,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan said the purchase offer from The Overland Group is for $199,000 for the 1.25 acres.

Also on Thursday, city council member Logan Welch voiced support for the proposal, calling it a “win-win” for the city as the city would be able to collect property taxes on the land if it is sold, and he believes the park is “under-utilized.”

Over the weekend, a petition on Change.org was started by Webster City Park and Recreation Commission member Zoami Calles Sosa, imploring the city council to not sell the park. As of Sunday night, the petition has 1,075 signatures.

There has also been a lot of social media activity since the press release came out on Thursday, much of which has been against the sale proposal.

On Saturday, following discussions with many community members, Welch announced on his Facebook page that he is changing his stance on the potential sale of East Twin Park.

“I am a true representative of the people and although I feel Webster City could in some ways benefit from a new (or at least bigger) retail establishment, it cannot be at the cost of a large central green space with emotional and historical ties to our community,” he wrote. “When the people of Webster City come to me in tears and with passion in droves, I must listen and ensure they have been heard.”

If the city council chooses to vote on the resolution to approve the sale during tonight’s meeting, Welch plans to vote nay via phone call as he will be out of state for the meeting.

“Webster City is resilient, strong and capable,” Welch added in his Facebook post. “If we stop the sale of the park, USE IT! Do not take our amazing green spaces for granted.”

The public hearing will begin at approximately 6:05 p.m. tonight and will include time for members of the public to voice support or opposition, or raise questions or concerns about the proposal.

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