STOW — The city’s leader said his administration is moving forward with a plan for a play trail/playground and splash pad near the city center, but noted a proposal to build an amphitheater has been put on "the back burner" in response to concerns raised by some residents.
Mayor John Pribonic said while the amphitheater concept is being set aside, he noted "we don’t want to hold anything up" on the plan for the play trail and the splash pad.
"What we have heard very clearly from our residents is that we want a play trail or play area to replace SKiP playground and … people enthusiastically want that splash pad," said Pribonic. "…We want to turn our attention right now to that play trail and to that splash pad."
The city was also looking to construct an amphitheater either near the city center or at Silver Springs Park. Residents have, during the last three council meetings, shared differing views about the amphitheater potentially being built near the city center. Several of the people who have spoken live close to the city center site and said they do not want the amphitheater built nearby due to concerns about issues such as noise, traffic and parking.
"They had concerns," said Pribonic. "We want to be good neighbors, so that’s why we’re looking at alternatives [for the amphitheater]."
Pribonic said officials will look at both sites for the amphitheater at a later date, but noted he did not know when a decision would be made on the location.
Nick Wren, the city’s director of public service, said officials are "concentrating" on the splash pad and play trail plans, and added the amphitheater "right now is not a priority for us."
Wren emphasized that the feedback that officials have received on the city center development "remains overwhelmingly positive."
"It is important to the administration that we continue on with this positive momentum in relation to the playground and splash pad," said Wren.
Money being raised for project
A steering committee is in place to raise money for the city center project. WWBD Consulting was hired in April to assist the committee in raising money. Wren said the city has paid WWBD $2,648 so far.
Funds were being raised for the amphitheater project during the last few months, but Pribonic said the city is contacting the amphitheater donors to see if they are OK with having their money pay for a play trail and splash pad instead.
Wren said four organizations have pledged a total of $275,000 toward the project. Three of those organizations have been contacted and "have shifted their donations to the overall city center project," said Wren.
He noted the combined cost of a play trail and a splash pad is $1 million, and added that the timeline on doing the project is "funding dependent."
A playground committee is handling the plan for the play trail and the splash pad, and will next meet on Sept. 4.
The next meeting of the steering committee has not been scheduled yet.
Residents share their thoughts on amphitheater, splash pad
On Aug. 8, city council again heard from residents regarding the potential placement of the amphitheater and splash pad next to the city center.
Dave Conti, who is leading a group called the Valley Forge Task Force, said his group wants to see the plan for building the amphitheater next to the city center "removed from the table permanently." The group is also doing a petition drive.
"We need to fix other things in the city first," said Kevin Clark, who called Stow a "bedroom community."
"We don’t need to have all this," said Clark. He added he was concerned about children crossing busy streets to go to the splash pad and said he would hold every council member who favors the splash pad responsible if a child was killed crossing the road to get to that attraction.
C. Lynnette Mima read an email that she wrote to Pribonic on Aug. 7 in which she objected to placing the amphitheater near the city center. She recalled how Pribonic had "many years ago" arranged for several Boy Scouts to shovel the snow off the driveway at her elderly mother’s home.
"How can you go from being so concerned for the comfort of one elderly lady to having no concern about the comfort of many residents?" asked Mima in her email to Pribonic. "I am beside myself that you (and others) are insistent that the amphitheater be built next to the city center."
Mima said she grew up in Stow, but then lived in Cuyahoga Falls, where she used to hear sound from the Friday night concerts 16 blocks away. Today, she is two blocks from the potential amphitheater site in Stow that she noted will create a "huge imposition."
"Finally, we find a place to settle and stay, and you want to change it and disrupt our peace?" asked Mima. "How dare you."
Council’s next meeting is Sept. 12.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.