The city of Brookhaven’s proposed location for the new Murphey Candler Park community center may create more parking problems in an already congested area, according to youth sports nonprofit Murphey Candler Baseball and some residents.
The community center is one of the projects approved by voters in 2018 during the $40 million parks bond referendum. It is budgeted for $1.25 million and planned to be across from the baseball fields on the west side of the Murphey Candler Park lake, according to a city map of the Murphey Candler Park bond changes.
City Councilmember Linley Jones said the city intends to follow the map that was given to voters in 2018. Jim Montembeau, a past president of Murphey Candler Baseball, said the parking lot near the proposed location is overflowing most of the year because of families participating in youth sports leagues.
In addition to youth baseball leagues, the park hosts youth football, cheerleading and softball teams. That parking lot has infamous traffic problems, which is one of the reasons the city is reopening a park road on the other side of the lake for people to use as additional parking. But that move has gotten backlash from residents as well for safety and environmental reasons.
“The concern is that it’s going to have additional traffic,” said Montembeau about the community center. “We thought, ‘Well, just move it to the pool.’ That would probably be the easiest thing to do so that there will be more accessibility and availability to people who want to use the community center.”
The pool is further down Candler Lake West Road from the proposed location of the community center and has its own parking lot. Other residents have suggested moving the community center to the pool because of similar traffic concerns.
“When ball games are happening, that place is always jammed with parking,” Murphey Candler resident Gary Harris said. “But yet the pool parking lot, 200 yards up the street, is always empty.”
Jones said that voters approved maps of the park changes in the park bond votes, so the city wants to keep changes as close to what the voters approved as possible.
“It’s not going to be moved to the other side of the lake,” Jones said. “It’s not going to be moved to another park. Is it going to be moved a couple of feet this way or that way? Of course it could be, because those are not scale drawings.”
The city had a public input process about amenities in the community center, starting with some pop-up events in late 2019 and transitioning to virtual, small-group discussions in July.
That process, conducted by CPL consultants, did not give residents the option to suggest a different location for the center. The virtual public input process asked residents to choose amenities, such as multipurpose rooms, a yoga studio and water sports equipment rentals.
“It was an assumption it was going to be in that location,” said Montembeau about the virtual public input process. “I think there’s something that we can do to make it work for everyone.”
Montembeau said Murphey Candler Baseball usually finds out about city park projects after they’re decided but works well with the city once they start implementing the projects.
“I think that it would be better if an entity such as Murphey Candler Baseball — we’re the largest nonprofit in Brookhaven — were part of the initial discussion of these projects, especially if it’s going to affect these leagues,” Montembeau said.
CPL will compile the feedback from the public input process to give to the City Council, which will then influence a design concept for the community center. That design needs to be approved before construction can start. City spokesperson Burke Brennan said there was no timeline for that process as of early October.