ST. JOHN | Some residents of the 158-home Bramblewood subdivision are strongly opposed to development of a proposed park that would occupy a corner residential lot in the 20-year old development.
More than a dozen residents turned out at last month's St. John Town Council meeting and most spoke against the park during the public comment time at the end of the meeting.
They criticized the method used to obtain their input and expressed safety concerns because the proposed park is on a busy corner.
However, by that time, the Town Council already authorized acquiring the land which is owned by a couple who originally planned to build a home there.
The unanimous vote gave Town Manager Steve Kil authority to seek at least two appraisals of the land. Town Attorney David Austgen said that three appraisals would be necessary if the matter went to court.
In February, Larry Bustamante, Ward 1, the council's vice president, proposed creating more green space in the western area of St. John and to name the park in memory of the late James J. Thiel.
Thiel, 89, was an eight-year Town Council member and a volunteer fireman for 25 years. Prominent in the St. John community, Thiel served as president of the St. John Civic Club for five terms and as president of a variety of civic, philanthropic and municipal boards.
Bustamante is a lieutenant/EMT with the St. John Fire Department and joined the department in 2003.
In February the council discussed several locations and decided on Bramblewood at Bustamante’s suggestion. The Bustamante family lives in that subdivision.
Bustamante sent a letter dated March 8 to all subdivision residents. That letter states, “It has come to my attention that there is an interest to add a park to the Bramblewood Subdivision.”
The letter had one survey question: "Would you like a park in the Bramblewood Subdivision?" and gave a March 18 deadline for response.
The controversy for most who spoke against the park’s creation was the letter’s statement that “any non-responses will be considered as a "Yes.” Bustamante said he had received 114 “yes” votes and 35 “no’s."
Thaddeus “Ted” Bukowinski questioned the Town Council about how the survey was conducted and why no response equaled a “yes” vote.
“I suppose there’s nothing we can do to stop this from happening,” he said. “It’s sad that we can’t do anything about it.”
Bukowinski also said, “I’m trying to figure out why we need a park on a prime piece of land. I don’t want a park there. I didn’t pay $370,000 for a house to have a park 75 feet away from my house.”
George Lamfalusi said he was surprised that the survey was conducted by only one Town Council member.
“The town does have a park department and a Park Board. I would have thought they would have done the survey,” Lamfalusi said.
Frank Bradtke, who serves as Park Board president, said at an earlier meeting that evening that he knew nothing about the proposed park or the survey.
Residents also expressed concern for children’s safety because drivers speed through the Bramblewood streets at the park’s proposed location.
“That area is what we call the ‘Dyer bypass.’ It’s like the Ind’y 500,” said Harry Mason. “I don’t want the park, but the blood is on our hands if a kid gets hit.”
Noise from the park, litter and teenagers loitering in the area after dark also were concerns expressed during the meeting.
Bramblewood was developed without a park and residents, including Jeanne Nowacki, said that was one reason the family bought there.
“Our backyards are large and most of us have playsets for our children,” she said.
Bustamante’s wife, Teresa, spoke in favor of the park and blasted neighbors who have put what she called “hate mail” regarding the survey and proposed park in the family’s mailbox.