By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Nine new site possibilities have been identified for the proposed Goshen Community Center set for a referendum in November.
The first public input meeting on site selection for the center project was held Tuesday evening in the Goshen High School cafeteria. Those attending learned that nine additional sites for the project have been identified.
The public meeting is the first in a number of public meetings scheduled in reaction to the Jan. 28 announcement that the city referendum on the community center project has been moved from May 7 to Nov. 5. The announcement followed mounting concerns that the project was moving too fast and the cost was too excessive as originally presented.
According to the original project plans, the community center would involve the construction of a $27.6 million facility at the former city garage property on the millrace’s west side. The center would include an aquatic center with a wellness and therapy pool; a recreation pool and a competition pool; a gymnasium, a fitness center with an indoor track and meeting rooms.
However, following concerns by the public that the original plan was too expensive, members of the Goshen Community Center Inc. committee decided to delay a referendum on the project for several months in order to provide the opportunity for additional community meetings to ensure the public is adequately informed about the project.
Project director Bruce Stahly gave attendees a brief rundown of the history and scope of the community center project. He then indicated that the most likely way the committee can reduce the cost of the project is to find an alternate location.
“What we need to do is look at how we’re going to sort of reduce the cost,” Stahly said. “It will probably be true that we can have less cost in terms of site development at a different site.”
Project committee member Wayne Kramer gave a rundown of the nine alternate sites that have been identified by the committee. Those sites include:
1. The North Meadows site near Hackett Road
2. The Quality Drive Away site along Mill Street
3. The Plymouth Avenue site across from Goshen Middle School
4. The old Western Rubber site at Douglas Street and Plymouth Avenue
5. The Dierdorff Road site at Kercher Road and C.R. 27 (Dierdorff)
6. The Greencroft site along C.R. 27
7. The old Goshen Inn location by U.S. 33 and Fairfield Avenue
8. The Fidler’s Pond site
9. The Elkhart County Fairgrounds site
“These are the ones we currently have on the table for consideration,” Kramer said. “If you have additional sites that you’d like to bring forward, we’d welcome that.”
Attendees were provided a questionnaire containing 40 site selection criteria questions broken down into five main headings: access; visibility; development impacts; community impacts and site characteristics.
After reviewing the questions individually, attendees then gathered in seven groups to brainstorm on which criteria questions they felt were the most important under each section and to mark them on the questionnaires.
Examples of the criteria questions asked include:
• Should the site offer good vehicular traffic patterns?
• Should the site offer a sense of security?
• Should the site development require minimum environmental cleanup?
• Should the site be close to residential dwellings?
Once the brainstorming session was completed, the site selection criteria handouts were collected by project committee members. A group representative was then selected from each of the seven groups to be part of a subcommittee tasked with helping to narrow down the site selection options over the next few weeks.
The subcommittee is set to meet at 6:30 p.m. March 12 at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce where committee members will examine the results of the compiled site selection criteria questionnaires and work at finalizing site selection criteria based on overall community input. Following that initial meeting, Stahly indicated that between two and three additional subcommittee meetings will be held in order to further narrow selection of the sites.
A second community input session will then be held at 7 p.m. March 26 in the Goshen High School cafeteria where the public will be informed of the subcommittee’s findings and asked to share any additional insight into the site selection process they might have.
According to Stahly, it is his hope that the project committee will be able to make a definite decision on site selection by early April.