Lakewood Community Resource Director Kit Newland called it a wicked problem with conflicting interests.
That problem: an access road that runs along the north side of Sanctuary Park, from South Garrison Street to the parking lot of St. Jude Catholic Church.
One one side of the issue: parishioners of the church. They’ve been using the road for decades and want to keep it open as a more convenient — and they say, safer — way than exiting onto often crowded West Florida Avenue, for those heading east.
On the other side: homeowners in the neighborhood who’ve been complaining of illicit activities going on along the road. They want it closed to the public, although some want to be able to access it themselves when necessary.
There’s also an issue with protecting public park land from private encroachments. The City and County actually own the land the road sits on. It’s technically part of the park.
Further complicating the matter, the church has been using the access road since before Lakewood became a city. The park land was purchased years later.
Newland said the City has been grappling with the problem for months and hasn’t been able to find a solution that would satisfy all of the interested parties.
So, in an attempt to find some sort of equitable outcome, she said the City has decided to utilize the services of a new city mediator and neighborhood liaison.
To test this new approach, representatives would be appointed from the church and the neighborhood to meet with the mediator. A representative from the Parks Department also would be present. Lakewood City Council called for a legal representative from the City to be present as well.
Councilor Anita Springsteen, Ward 3, took Newland to task over what she considers a non-issue. Springsteen said the City has 1200 parishioners of the church opposed to the road closure, while she only knows of two neighbors making complaints and suggesting the road should be closed.
“Why are we changing it?” Springsteen asked. “I want the answer to that, please.”
The exchange became heated, leading to a short break. When the meeting resumed, it was explained to Council that the encroachment was an issue the City was taking seriously. It was also pointed out that residents of the area live there and aren’t just inconvenienced for a few minutes each week.
Council member, Wendi Strom (Ward 5), questioned whether a privately owned entity holding sway over publicly owned land could be seen as setting precedent, potentially leading to similar disputes in the future.