STUART, Fla. — Stuart City commissioners voted Monday night to spare the Sailfish Park baseball fields from being sold to a housing developer.
Baseball lovers were worried for months that their beloved fields would be traded for apartments.
But, city leaders also say not selling the fields will pose future challenges. The city needs new sources of revenue, and the sale of the fields would have been worth more than $3 million.
According to city leaders, the housing projects could have generated up to $700,000 per year in new tax.
Brian Ferguson is from Palm City, but his son plays on the fields in Stuart. He explained the fields have emotional, multi-generational ties for a lot of families.
“I mean, this is where everyone came and where everyone feels their home was,” Ferguson said. He felt the fields and outdoor space were more beneficial to the city than housing.
“There’s a right place and a right location for that. Here, I don’t think was kind of the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Even non-baseball families celebrated a win for preserving green space.
“If they want to do housing, they can do it somewhere else. That park is downtown, it’s our green space,” said Stuart resident Linda Shayne. She helped collect more than 1,000 signatures against the sale of the park.
But, other Stuart residents say the city missed an opportunity to do more for people who actually live in the city.
“It’s partly a political issue. It’s a question of a lot of people from outside our area in western Martin County, Palm City, using our ball fields, and the kids in East Stuart aren’t using those ball fields,” said Mark Brechbill, a Stuart resident.
The parks still are not spared from possible development in the future. The city has looked to sell the land multiple times over the years.
“I hate seeing this being kicked down the road over and over and over,” said Mayor Becky Bruner.
Commissioner Kelli Glass-Leighton made it clear that without the sale of the baseball fields, the city will still need to find new revenue elsewhere.
“We are desperate for ways to create revenue … I hate to think of us increasing the millage rate, but that’s the road we’re going to go down if we continue to offer these awesome services, but not find a way to pay for them.”