About 50 residents packed the north gym at Greensview Elementary School on Aug. 21 for the last in a series of public forums about the future of Sunny 95 Park.

About 50 residents packed the north gym at Greensview Elementary School on Aug. 21 for the last in a series of public forums about the future of Sunny 95 Park.

The 14.7-acre park is located adjacent to the school, 4501 Greensview Drive, and the existing Langston Park. The city has set aside $300,000 for the first phase of development.

A master site plan and architectural renderings, which were unveiled at last Thursday's meeting, show athletic fields, walkways and bike paths, a performing arts venue, picnic areas, a playground, a four-seasons shelter and passive, natural areas.

Another proposed amenity is a pond that would be used for storm-water management, in keeping with guidelines of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said planning consultant John Edsall.

The pond will be about 8 to 9 feet deep, but would be shallow at the edges, Edsall said.

"The step-off would be about 2 feet," he said.

Some residents expressed concerns that the pond might create a drowning hazard for children. Greensview Elementary principal Jason Wulf said the pond would be located far enough from the school that students would be unlikely to venture there.

Wulf added that he supports developing the park, rather than leaving it as undeveloped greenspace. Adding a new children's play area at the park would discourage the community from using the school's existing playground, he said.

"It'll keep (Greensview) staff from having to approach people not use the playground," he said. "It offers a new alternative, another place to play."

Other residents oppose the park plan, expressing concerns about increased congestion and noise, attracting crime and decreased property values.

Castleton Road resident Mark Brown said he's concerned that the proposed performing arts venue, which would accommodate up to 150 people, will disrupt the neighborhood.

"It seems like the people who want the amphitheater don't live here. That's just going to bring in traffic," he said. "That's not going to serve us at all."

The venue will be designed to cause as little disruption to surrounding homes as possible, Edsall said.

"This is not a Germain Amphitheatre," he said. "You're not looking at rock groups."

In response to residents who inquired about safety issues, Upper Arlington parks and recreation director Tim Moloney said developed parks tend to discourage rather than attract crime. While there are no plans to increase police presence at Sunny 95 Park, the city will address any security concerns, he said.

"We will work with any residents on trespassing issues, people cutting through your property," he said.

Nationwide studies of parks' impact on residential property values are included in the Sunny 95 master plan. One 1985 study analyzed the impact of the 152-acre Whetstone Park in north Columbus on approximately 100 nearby homes.

The average distance of properties in the study area was 973 feet from Whetstone Park. With an average selling price of $64,000 at the time, proximity to the park represented a 7.35 percent premium in the selling price of those homes in the Whetstone area, according to the study.

Ohio State University geography professor Darla Munroe said the studies in the Sunny 95 master plan may not present an accurate picture of what Upper Arlington residents who live near the park can expect.

"These figures are very, very rosy," she said, "so I would be suspicious."

Munroe said she is not an Upper Arlington resident, but that the impact of parks on home values is one of her areas of expertise. She said she simply wanted to let residents know it was possible that plans for the park could negatively affect their property values.

Edsall said that while some studies do indicate parks can have a negative impact on residential property values, each circumstance is unique.

"The ones that had negative experiences were completely surrounded by homes and buildings and there was really no opportunity for observation (of parkland)," he said.

Some residents said they welcome the development of Sunny 95 Park.

"It's not like you're changing things dramatically," said Winterset Drive resident Jim McGovern. "We're not going to be adding that many people here. Parents are already coming in and out for use of a school."

Now that the public input stage is complete, the next step of the Sunny 95 plan is to collect bids for the first development phase, which will consist mostly of grading the grounds and building the storm-water management pond, Moloney said. Bids are scheduled to go out this fall, with construction to begin in spring 2009.

Building the performing arts venue, replacing the park's existing tennis courts and other amenities outlined in the Sunny 95 plan will not be included in the first phase and will require further public input, Moloney said. Beyond the initial $300,000 allotted by the city, plans call for the park to be funded by private donations and grants rather than taxpayer dollars.

cbournea@thisweeknews.com