PHOENIX - More than 1,200 people who live, work and play in downtown Phoenix have a signed a petition asking a dog park be built on the site of the former Ramada Hotel.
“I’m doing this because it's the right thing for downtown,” said Sean Sweat, one of the organizers of the petition drive.
Sweat and several friends have spent a couple Saturday mornings collecting signatures in the Public Market on First Street and Pierce Street.
The proposed dog park would be built on an empty lot, right now occupied by construction equipment and dirt, a couple of blocks south on Taylor Street.
Already, the City of Phoenix has been granted a permit from a zoning board so they can build surface parking on the two-acre site.
The parking lot would have 230 parking spaces, which would be used by the public, Sheraton Hotel guests, ASU students and Arizona Republic workers.
“To use it for a park would not be appropriate because that's not what the voters asked us to do,” said Jeremy Legg, an economic development program manager for the City of Phoenix.
Phoenix and the Downtown Phoenix Hotel Corporation, which operate the Sheraton, acquired the property jointly with the intention to use the land to build the ASU Law School, Legg said.
“You can never have enough parks, but the Civic Space Park is a great new park literally one block away from this site with plenty of grassy open areas and other amenities,” he added.
"We don’t have the funding to develop any new parks and we don’t have any of the funding to maintain any new parks," Legg said.
Sweat said paving the lot is already costing the city about $150,000
He said building a dog park would cost less.
The plan to build a surface parking lot contradicts a plan the city adopted in 2008 that calls for a centralized dog park downtown, Sweat said.
Kim Robinson was at the market and signed the petition.
She lives close to downtown, but has to drive 20 minutes to Tempe to take her dog to a dog park.
“As populated as this area is, and as many people who love their pets, it's just like a part of your family, I think it's crazy,” Robinson said. “We have all the resources, we've got the area. It's perfect. We should have it.”
Sweat and nearby residents are appealing the zoning board’s decision. It will go before the city’s Board of Adjustment on noon Thursday at City Council Chambers, 200 W Jefferson Street..
“There are lots of people living here and they want to see phoenix develop into something special that they can be proud of,” Sweat said.
But on Wednesday Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon stepped up and is now putting the decision of where to put a dog park on the public to decide.
"We as a city can safely say we are not opposed to a dog park in the downtown area," Gordon said.
He announced that a committee will be formed and anyone who lives in the downtown corridor can join it.
"Its mission is to come up with a concession of at least 3/4 of its commitee," said Gordon.
The committee will give that recommendation to the city council for approval. But whether it's the old Ramada lot or somewhere else, Mayor Gordon says he'll back the public's choice.
"If we have 3/4 of commitee recommending a location, which doesn't prevent other locations, it's just what's first. I'll commit today that I would be supportive of that location," Gordon said.
The city says it will do it quickly. They want to start building the new park by the beginning of next year.
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