|After years of outcry from residents for more playing fields, the city is apparently moving full steam ahead on a 12-acre baseball and soccer field along Garcia Avenue.
"The assumption at this point is that we will move forward unless something goes really massively wrong," said City Council member Ronit Bryant at a study session Tuesday.
But there are a few problems. For one, the site is a former landfill that is still settling. For another, burrowing owls, a local "species of concern," use the area to hunt mice, voles and insects.
According to city staff, the playing surface for a baseball field with 90-foot base paths, and a 70-by-110-yard soccer field, could settle three to 10 inches over the next 50 years, possibly causing an uneven surface. A "squish study" is underway, and the city believes it will be able to handle the settling with "spot repairs" and some preventative measures.
"We don't think the settlement will be a deal breaker," said city manager Kevin Duggan. "We're concerned more with what needs to be done with the [owl] foraging issue."
Staffers say the city may have to set aside some of the 12 acres for the owls, cutting into space available for the fields. Or the city might purchase land elsewhere from a land bank to compensate for the fields -- an option the city approved last week for the Google hotel site, which is a burrowing owl nesting ground.
The city currently has over 100 acres devoted to foraging for burrowing owls in the area.
"While the mitigation requirements for relocating nesting owls, such as those at the Charleston East site, are relatively clear, the requirements for mitigating loss of foraging habitat are not," wrote assistant public works director Mike Fuller in the staff report.
The cost for the fields is estimated at $7.8 million for a dirt field and $8.5 million for artificial turf. Turf is preferred because it is less likely to create mud and ponding on top of the clay landfill cap.
Are you receiving Express, our free daily e-mail edition? See a sample and sign-up for Express.