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Sports complex closer to approval

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2002

NEW KENSINGTON: The developer of a proposed sports complex at Falcon Park had volumes to say Wednesday after the city's planning commission gave its approval to an ordinance change needed to build the facility.

"One word: homestretch," said Rick McDonald, managing partner in DR Ice, the developer planning to build the Valley Sports Complex on five acres at the corner of Craigdell Road and the Route 56 bypass.

Suggesting that city council first make small adjustments, the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that council approve the ordinance and pave the way for the 65,000-square-foot facility to be built.

Council has the final say in whether the ordinance will pass, taking into account the planning commission's recommendation.

There is little doubt, however, that council will pass the ordinance. Council took the lead in having the 29 acres at Falcon Park rezoned, and it asked the planning commission to waive its 30-day review period before voting to approve the ordinance. Planning commission members had the ordinance in their hands late last week.

"If what is presented at our meeting is what was presented tonight, I can't see one reason why council won't approve this," Councilman John Regoli Jr. said.

Council should give final approval to the ordinance in mid-January.

There should be no legal challenge to council's decision, as the most vocal resident originally opposed to the development said after Wednesday's meeting that he is pleased with the decision to rezone the property.

"Our legal challenge was to the curative amendment," said Del Brown, who along with neighbor Linda Zsolcsak, hired a lawyer to fight DR Ice's request that the city amend an existing ordinance to allow for building the facility.

Brown said he wanted the property rezoned from the beginning.

"We feel we will get more reasonable development this way," he said.

McDonald and city officials, meanwhile, said they pushed for the curative amendment to protect the residents, whose major concerns have been that allowing the sports complex to be built would pave the way for unwanted future developments.

"We've come a long way from scratching six words out of the ordinance," Brown said.

The curative amendment would have removed a clause preventing certain developments at the park.

The proposed ordinance change creates a new zoning classification for the park, OS-3, which allows for certain indoor and recreational developments on the land while creating safeguards for the surrounding neighborhood by preventing other developments.

The park now is zoned OS-1.

In another development, McDonald said that he is close to buying the park's remaining 24 acres from city resident Frank Brunner.

"We are very close to a deal," McDonald said. "Hopefully we can reach an agreement by the end of the year."

Brunner could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

DR Ice now will submit building plans for the $4.3 million facility and plans to break ground Feb. 1.

The sports complex is expected to open by August.

McDonald had concerns earlier that only the ice rink will be ready for use by then.

McDonald said he has purchased the steel for the facility.

"That's how confident we are we're going to build this thing," he said.

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