BRATTLEBORO -- There was really no new information shared at Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting during a discussion on the skatepark proposed for Crowell Lot.
The same people offered the same arguments for, and against, the skatepark which have been given over the past three years since the Selectboard first approved the plan in 2010.
At Tuesday's meeting supporters said the park would be good for youth and would be a positive addition to the Crowell Lot.
Opponents warned that the park would be noisy and dangerous and that it would detract from the green space at Crowell Lot.
But while the pleas from each side have not changed, the makeup of the Selectboard has and the future of the Crowell Lot skatepark may now be in question.
Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming, or BASIC, a town committee operating under the Recreation and Parks Department, voted last month to reduce the size of the proposed skatepark, largely because the group has not been able to raise enough money to build an 11,000-square-foot park.
BASIC hoped the Selectboard would approve the new design, which would allow the committee to then take the plan to the school board and Development Review Board.
But after more than an hour of debate, the Selectboard voted 3-2 to table the discussion and put off a decision until at least the Nov. 5 Selectboard meeting.
"It's fair to say that this request certainly opens up the public comments that we've received from the members of the public who were in attendance," Chairman David Gartenstein said at the end of Tuesday night's meeting. "We need to make a decision on how to proceed and there are many alternatives open to us at this time. This is a different board than the one that made the decision in the past. This is a different board than who voted over the course of the last two years."
The Selectboard room was mostly filled with opponents of the park Tuesday night, and after listening to the comments for more than an hour the Selectboard members seemed ready to start the site selection process over again.
"My position at this point is that it looks to me like the circumstances have changed because the discussion was always in terms of 12,000 square feet and $350,000 and if the inability to raise the funds tells me anything it's that there's not the level of support that we thought at the beginning there would be for this park," Gartenstein said. "I continue to believe that having such a divisive atmosphere relating to this park is not a healthy way to go forward with this project. There may be merit to broadening out the decision about whether there's going to be a park and if so, where?"
"There are a lot more concerns now and the concerns we heard here are important concerns. At this point it's time for us to reconsider all the options to recognize this is an incredibly divisive decision," Selectboard member David Schoales said before the board voted to table the decision. "Things have changed significantly. We just can't ignore something this divisive."
Board member Donna Macomber also said she might be in favor of opening up the site selection process.
Macomber said BASIC might find it easier to raise money with more community support behind the idea.
And board member Kate O'Connor said she was very conflicted.
O'Connor said she supported the park, and even thought the Crowell Lot might be a good place for it, but she was not ready to vote on approving the new design yet.
Gartenstein, Macomber and O'Connor voted to put off the decision.
Only board member John Allen came down in strong support of the new design, and of keeping the park at Crowell Lot.
Allen was a member of the Selectboard in 2010.
He said there have been plenty of public meetings, and he said the committee has already done all of its work, short of raising the money, and that it was not fair to force them to start the site selection process all over again.
"What do we do, make them start all over again? I don't think that's fair," Allen said. "If we do we're going to run into the same problems and the same situations as we did at Memorial Park, as we did at West River Park, and all this committee wants to do is get a skateboard park built for the kids."
Skatepark committee member Spencer Crispe came before the Selectboard to ask permission to downsize the park from 11,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
"We just want to eliminate the more expensive features," Crispe said. "We're looking to see if the Selectboard will grant us permission to work toward fundraising at that adjusted size that is more palatable for hopefully breaking ground next year."
Even after opponents began to suggest that the proposed size reduction offered the Selectboard a chance to reopen the whole debate on the Crowell Lot site, Crispe tried to change the direction of the discussion.
"We're not here to decide whether there'll be a skatepark here or not. That's already been decided," Crispe said. "We are only here to ask permission to make it smaller."
Andy Davis, who said he was representing the Resite the Skatepark Committee, a group of neighbors and Brattleboro residents who oppose the skatepark, said the Crowell Lot plan was at a crucial juncture.
Davis said despite approval from three town boards, the project has not been able to raise enough money to move ahead with the original design.
Davis said the group has had a hard time raising money because of the animosity the project has created in town.
Davis asked the Selectboard to table the decision.
"We request that you reflect on this situation and table this proposal for a fuller and more thoughtful consideration," Davis said. "Simply approving this request to downsize the skatepark may seem like an easy decision to make, but a closer look reveals more opportunities for creativity, and even for success of this project."
Davis said with the smaller park it might now be easier to find an alternative site, which he said might bring in more money.
Moving the skatepark away from Crowell Lot, Davis said, could bring more supporters into the fold.
"It's time to turn BASIC into a group that is free to consider more than one siting option," Davis said. "A bipartisan approach could move this project toward success."
Back and forth it went all night.
Opponents said there have not been enough public meetings on the Crowell Lot site.
Supporters said there have been countless public meetings over the past three years.
Opponents said the park would change Crowell Lot.
Supporters said a safe skatepark is exactly what the youth of Brattleboro need.
After the debate the Selectboard tried to sort out exactly what it was being asked to do.
O'Connor said that whatever the Selectboard ultimately decides it would be important to have a very clear path forward for future meetings and strategies
The skatepark committee has to go before the Development Review Board again because its two year permit expired.
"It should be noted that all throughout these discussions what's been proposed has been something in the $350,000 range, in the range of 11,000 square feet," Gartenstein said. "So this is really a significant difference in the size and scope than what's been presented to the Selectboard and to the public for a series of years."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or email@example.com. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.