Nearly a year ago, the executive director of the city of Roswell’s economic development arm scheduled a meeting to discuss a project. Code name: “Yellow Ball.”
The topic? A proposal for a massive tennis center in Roswell’s Big Creek Park.
Though the plan was short lived once it became public earlier this month, inspiring a massive petition drive and hundreds of protesters at a city council meeting, emails show discussions had been taking place, off and on, for months.
But nowhere in the correspondence does anyone suggest talking to residents about whether they wanted a tennis center, and whether they wanted it on 60 acres of hiking and mountain biking trails in a popular park.
Instead, the focus of city leaders and U.S. Tennis Association officials was how the announce their plans, offering up suggestions on the press release and a video and listing who would announce on what social media accounts.
On Aug. 12, only four days after announcing plans for the center, city council withdrew the proposal, apparently caught off guard by the opposition. In the excitement of Vernon Krause’s offer to create the $50 million tennis facility in memory of his daughter, council members forged ahead without public input.
Emails indicate that there were concerns about whether the parkland was suitable for tennis. Still, the city moved forward.
“We were over-excited,” said Matt Tyser, the council liaison to recreation and parks. “We all were trying to do something good for the city.”
The city is still interested in building a tennis center, Mayor Lori Henry has said, but not in the park.
Stephanie Sears, president of the Barrington Farms homeowners’ association, told Channel 2 Action News that residents move to her neighborhood because of the park. Sears said she was “really alarmed” by how willing city leaders seemed to be to keep the project from public scrutiny.
“What else is being done that’s not being brought to the public at this point?” she asked.
Tyser said the city went public with its plan “as soon as we could.” Still, he acknowledged that residents’ input was lacking.
“I’ve learned a lot from this, I really have,” he said.