Proposed land swap would create area in town park.
The Town of Highlands may soon be getting some recreational soccer fields if County Commissioner Jimmy Tate sees his plan come to fruition.
At the county commissioner's board meeting held in Highlands on May 20, citizens of Highlands joined Tate to convey the need for new soccer fields.
“We have a lot of youth soccer players here. They start at the age of three and play through high school,” said Jeff Weller who coaches the Highands High School girls varsity soccer team. “Currently, the field at the school is the only regulation sized field. The youth play on the outfield of the baseball field. There is a definite need in this town for it.”
Tim Mosely, a youth league coach echoed the sentiment.
“We have a great program here in Highlands, but by not having a regulation field for those kids to practice on, we're doing them a disservice,” he said. “By not having a full field, the kids are missing out. Our kids see these other fields that other teams use and you should see the looks on their face. They're trying to play on partial fields. They don't have a field that they can call their home. Families don't have a field that they can come see their kids play on.”
Tate approached the members with a plan to construct new fields that can be used by anybody in the community wanting to play the game.
At the moment, the town has one field, but Highlands high school has laid claim to its use exclusively.
“We have one that the school uses, but it's reserved for school use only and we need somewhere for for rec. league to play,” said Tate. “Since I became a county commissioner I have been working on a plan to get these fields built.”
The proposed piece of property for the new fields is Zachary Park located within the Highlands township. The park is home to the Little League baseball field according to Tate and just south of it lies 1.7 acres that the county purchased a few years back.
“If the commissioners agree to this, we can take our parcel and trade it for this parcel,” said Tate, pointing to the area of land that joins the parcel where the baseball field is located.
Just to the southeast of the baseball field, Tate pointed out another piece of property owned by the same landowner with whom the trade would be carried out, that is abnormally flat which is often “unheard of for Highlands” that could be fitting for soccer fields that would be used by a variety of age groups.
“There is also a spring head, meaning we can pipe water underneath the field,” he said. “We don't have to, but it would be nice.”
According to state statute, counties can swap land with other entities as long as there is a need and the land being exchanged is appraised and found to be of equal value.
According to county planner Matt Mason, the land is sufficient for the soccer fields and a few different plans prove it.
Tate followed up by offering estimates for the construction costs of the new fields.
“I've got some information from a contractor who knows the subject matter and he came in around $250,000,” he said. “There would be different accommodations for kids.”
County Attorney Chester Jones advised the board to publish a notice to the public that would inform them of the land swap, giving them an opportunity to weigh in if the board chose to proceed forward with plans to construct the fields as Tate proposed.
“If you decide to authorize the notice for the swap, it doesn't mean that you have to follow through, it just means that you're prepared to,” said Jones. “You've got time to research the issue.”
“If anybody has any concerns or issues about this, I'll be glad to address those,” Tate told the board before casting their vote on the public notice.
Following Commissioner Ronnie Beale's motion to move forward with the notice and the gathering of information, Commissioner Paul Higdon weighed in with his opposition to the plan.
“I think this is a great idea, but I'm opposed to purchasing any property that is not budgeted for,” he said. “I opposed the recreational plan for Franklin and I feel obligated to oppose this plan if it requires extending non-budgeted money, which it will.”
Corbin countered that the motion was not to purchase, but to issue notice of the swap and to gather more information concerning the property.
The motion passed 3-2 with Tate, Corbin and Beale in support and Higdon and Haven opposing.