NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) — Dozens of residents spoke before Newport News City Council Tuesday night urging them to keep City Farm as park-land. The council voted 5-2 in their favor.
Residents said they’ve been waiting decades for City Farm, once part of the old prison, to become a public park, and they don’t want it taken away from them.
"I’m hoping for my grandchildren to walk, jog, bicycle along the James River," said one resident.
Residents became concerned when the city manager proposed to change the zoning designation of the 60-acre property from Parks and Recreation to Under Study. They believed by putting City Farm under study, it would open up the gates for residential and commercial developments.
"Has anyone ran across a group of people that are for turning it into expensive housing, I can’t find it, I can’t find one person," said one resident.
Residents said City Farm is some of the last open land along the James River, and it should remain open to the public.
"City Farm is like the last bit of property of its kind. We have a resource here and we want to use it in the long term. I really don’t believe selling this off is the right move," said another resident.
More than 6,000 people signed a petition for the city to keep City Farm’s zoning as Parks and Recreation.
"Listen to your people, your people have spoken. We have voted you to where you are today, right now, listen to your planning commission. Why have a planning commission if you didn’t want to listen to it, to begin with," said another resident.
However, currently, City Farm remains closed to the public. The mayor, who was in favor of the zoning change, said even if the city were to open it up as a public park, a study would still need to be done.
"We’ve got to decide if it’s going to be a park, what kind of park, the impact on the community, traffic patterns, environmental study, all of this has to be studied even if it’s going to be a park," said Mayor McKinley Price.
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