Orchard Park neighbors showed up in force citing worries about loss in property value, town tax revenue, noise, traffic, lighting and future expansion as their reasons for opposing a soccer club’s plan to convert a closed Freeman Road stable into a place where young soccer players can train.
“Who knows what will happen five years from now?” said Lauren Betz. “So often something gets approved and it turns into something everyone thought wasn’t going to happen.”
Others at a public hearing held during Wednesday’s meeting of the Town Board echoed her concerns about the nonprofit Orchard Park Soccer Club’s plan to use Quakerfield Stables buildings for practice. The majority of about 30 people who spoke were opposed. The board expects to vote on it at a May 21 meeting.
“I knew it was going to be an emotional subject matter,” said Councilman Eugene Majchrzak. He said he and the other board members want to take some time to consider all the aspects of the complicated subject. “We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk.”
Before the meeting, a lawyer hired by neighbors made a presentation at a work session. “It’s not about rancor or ill feelings,” said Ryan Belka. “It’s just healthy public debate.”
He offered board members a sheaf of papers, complete with reference tabs, showing how the Orchard Park Soccer Club needs more details, including how it will address parking and cars on a drive that doesn’t seem wide enough for more than one car at a time. He pointed out that the soccer nonprofit would not contribute local property taxes as the current owner has.
Belka was also concerned that soccer playing would not be contained inside the old horse arena and that children would play spontaneous games outdoors. “Soccer is popular in the third world for a reason,” he said. “All you need is a ball.”
Once the regular meeting began at 7 p.m., some came to the microphone to support the club’s plans and its community contribution as an athletic outlet for local youngsters.
And, if the club could open on Freeman Road, parents would not have to make the longer trip to Sahlen’s Sports Park in Elma and there would be more time for homework, said Madisyn DeLozier of Colden after her mother introduced her.
“I wouldn’t have to rush,” she said. “I could take care of schoolwork.”
People clapped when she finished. They also clapped when passionate opponents made their case, some saying they would prefer houses or condos that would contribute taxes and keep values of neighboring homes strong.
Tom Capell worried about the traffic. He said he lives across the street from the stable and has witnessed many driving-related mishaps on his property.