Palm Beach Gardens baseball stadium proposal becoming an election issue

Residents who live near the proposed spring training baseball complex east of Central Boulevard are preparing to make the stadium location an issue in the March city election, when three council members will be up for reelection.

“I put them on notice that it will be an election issue for me,” said George Gehl, who has lived in the Shady Lakes community south of the proposed stadium site for 19 years. “We’re going to find out who votes how in the end, and it may cost their jobs if there’s enough of us.”

Bent Tree resident Andrea Ciampi said the community’s homeowners association has “vehemently opposed” the proposed location for the baseball complex and noted that a voter registration drive is “in the planning stages.”

“We don’t oppose the stadium,” Ciampi said. “We oppose the site.”

Residents of the Bent Tree, Shady Lakes and Old Palm communities spoke out against the proposed location for the stadium during the Nov. 7 city council meeting, citing concerns about traffic, noise, lights and security.

Others residents supported the stadium plan, saying the proposed spring training complex for Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays would be good for the economy and would create more fields that could be used for youth sporting events and regional tournaments.

Opponents of the proposed location for the spring training complex have been asking city council members for their positions — yes or no — on whether the baseball complex, including a stadium, a dozen practice fields and grass parking lots, should be built at the proposed location near two public schools on the north side of 117th Court North.

“Is the city council in favor of this site or not?” said Mike Martino, a former councilman. “Everything else is superfluous.”

But city council members say it’s way too early for them to take a position on the stadium site because they have more questions than answers about the proposal at this stage.

“I would love to be able to tell you what my position is,” Councilwoman Marcie Tinsley said. “At this point, there is no proposal to base a decision on.”

Tinsley will be up for reelection in March along with Mayor Bert Premuroso and Councilman Eric Jablin.

Councilman David Levy said he doubted whether the council would vote on the spring training complex by March and might never vote on it if other pieces of the plan don’t fall into place. County commissioners must agree to sell 82 acres needed for the complex to the city, and bed tax money paid by the county’s hotel guests needs to be committed to pay for the $100 million complex.

“I don’t think anybody on the council has made a decision one way or the other,” Levy said. “The one thing I can say is we’re not 95 percent there. I’m not sure we’re even 5 percent there.”

Bent Tree resident Kathy Sorkin, who has been leading a petition drive opposing the location for the stadium complex, said volunteers will be going into neighborhoods this weekend to gather more signatures opposing the stadium location.

Alfred Brown, a Bent Tree homeowner and a proponent of term limits for city council members, said the stadium issue should draw more city voters to the polls in March.

“What’s happening here is waking up a lot of sleeping bears,” Brown said.

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