Mediation set to begin on Brattleboro skatepark dispute

First step in the state appeal process of DRB vote

BRATTLEBORO — The legal dispute over a proposed skatepark in the Crowell Lot on Western Avenue has now gone to mediation.

In July, the Brattleboro Development Review Board (DRB) approved a plan by the Brattleboro Skatepark Committee to build a 12,000-square-foot skatepark.

On Sept. 12, Barry Adams, who lives near the Crowell Lot and is a member of the Save Our Playground Coalition (SOPC), appealed the decision to the Vermont Environmental Court. He is concerned about what he calls “the destruction of the integrity of the park.”

Last month, Environmental Court Judge Thomas Durkin ordered the two parties to bring in a mediator.

Adamant-based Cindy Cook is working on the case. She said that as of late last week, the two sides have yet to meet.

Adams confirmed late last week that Cook was starting to notify all interested parties to set up a mediation session. He estimated the entire process should not take more than about 20 hours to complete.

If sufficient progress has been made, SOPC and the Skatepark Committee will make a presentation to the Environmental Court by early January. Durkin is expected to issue a ruling shortly thereafter.

David Longsmith, president of Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming (BASIC) and a member of the skatepark committee, said that he is has no problems with the case going to mediation.

Longsmith, who called the town's efforts to build the park “a very up-front and open process,” said he was not surprised that the DRB's decision was appealed.

“The town and BASIC are discussing our options for the Crowell Lot,” Longsmith said. “These options have always been open to discussion. If the mediation process can lead to a skatepark at the Crowell Lot, everyone will win, but [the opponents] are the ones who have to come forward.”

In June 2010, the town School Board approved, pending some details on the lease, the transfer of control of a portion of the Crowell Lot to the town, and the Recreation and Parks Department, for the construction of a skate park.

That lease set a deadline of five years to complete the project.

Construction costs are estimated at about $300,000. According to Longsmith, more than $50,000 has been pledged or donated so far, and BASIC has continued its fundraising efforts.

In September, BASIC received a $5,000 grant - one of 15 nationwide this year - from the Tony Hawk Foundation, which “supports recreational programs with a focus on the creation of public skateboard parks in low-income communities,” according to the organization's website.

Longsmith said if the Environmental Court rules in BASIC's favor, work will begin, with a goal of having the park ready by the end of 2012.

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