VOL. 112 | NO. 179 | Friday, October 2, 1998
South Memphis residents will gather Saturday at a neighborhood church in what seems to be shaping up as a classic David and Goliath battle between industrial use and preservation of public lands
Project opponents rally to oppose park project
By KATHLEEN BURT
The Daily News
Editors note: This is the first in a multi-part series about Williams Mapcos proposal to lease part of Martin Luther King Park in South Memphis. Part One will provide an overview of the issue.
South Memphis residents will gather Saturday at a neighborhood church in what seems to be shaping up as a classic David and Goliath battle between industrial use and preservation of public lands.
Residents and supporters of Martin Luther King Park are invited to attend a rally set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Bloomfield Baptist Church, 123 S. Parkway West, for the third meeting of those opposing a measure that would lease seven acres of the park to Williams Mapco.
The 379-acre park, which lies west of Interstate 55 off Mallory Avenue, is adjacent to the Mapco refinery.
Mapco proposed to lease a portion of the park to build offices, warehouse and maintenance facilities and a parking garage. The new facilities would encompass about 3.5 acres, with the other leased land left as is.
Saturdays rally is planned as final preparations are being made to mount a formal opposition to the proposal, which was scheduled for a public hearing at the Memphis City Council meeting Tuesday.
The Office of Planning and Development and the Land Use Control Board have approved the project with conditions at recent meetings.
The plan was to be heard at Tuesdays City Council meeting, but Mapco officials have requested postponement until the Oct. 20 meeting, said attorney Scott F. May, who represents Mapco in Memphis.
"We want an opportunity to meet with those who oppose this to see if there is any common ground," May said. "We want to be certain that the neighborhood and park patrons want this."
The Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Baptist, and Harriet Boone, a member of the Sienna Club, are the organizing citizens in opposition to the plan.
Neither wants to see park land used for any sort of industrial development.
"We dont feel thats its right for them (the Parks Commission) to allow them to come in and take any part of this park," White said. "Mapco has land on their own property to build this. I say let them put it on their own land and then follow through with the commitment they made to the community."
As part of the proposed lease agreement, Mapco will pay $150,000 to the city up-front, then pay an annual lease of $125,000 for 30 years. The lease contains a 30-year option in which the price can be renegotiated but cannot exceed $250,000 per year, May said.
As part of the lease, Mapco wants all of the lease payment to be used to make improvements at the park and the two nearby community centers managed by the Parks Commission.
This would be in addition to the funds annually allocated to Martin Luther King Park in the city budget, May said.
Getting additional funds for the park is a worthy endeavor, White said, but there is no way that Mapco can ensure the money will go to those facilities.
"Mapco has earmarked $125,000 to upgrade the park, but the money only goes to the Park Commission, and then its divvied out as they see fit," White said.
Both sides also addressed questions about the environmental impact of removing part of a hill and a number of trees would have on the neighborhood, the number of jobs the project would create and whether the lease would close off other areas of the park to public use.
The park lies in a super district represented by Joe Brown, Myron Lowery and Rickey Peete. Joseph Ford is the District 6 representative. The park is in his ward.
Boone said she has gathered more than 500 signatures from Memphians who want to leave the park as it is. She said she also passed out stamped envelopes to patrons along Beale Street and asked them to write the City Council about the issue.
She said she did not know if any of the letters were sent.
May said other community leaders hes spoken to in the neighborhood surrounding the park seem to be in favor of the project.
"Theyre convinced it would be good for the park, good for park patrons and good for the neighborhood," May said.
Monday: Land use vs. the environment