Future of City of St. Cloud Parks in Peril
By Valerie Anderson
The City Council of St. Cloud annexed and rezoned Chisholm Park on April 26, 2018 – and citizens are concerned that the city plans to develop, lease, and/or sell off the park, as it’s a large stretch of East Lake Toho lakefront.
“With the new zoning, the only available zoning for all parks in the City of St. Cloud is ‘P – Professional.’ This is not an appropriate zoning for parks, because nothing in that zoning code definition requires open space, conservation, or recreation,” says Valerie Anderson, Florida Native Plant Society Pine Lily Chapter Policy and LegisIation chair. “This zoning type is lumped in with other Commercial zonings the city uses. With high-density development patterns arising, parks may be the only areas that we have available for open space and native plant areas.”
During the City Commission meeting in April, it was said that it only takes two to three months to add a new zoning category. As of August 14, five months have passed and no draft parks-appropriate zoning has been released for public review and comment. Speaking at the June 14 City Council meeting, Valerie reminded council members of the passing time. Staff indicated that a parks zoning is on the planning department’s work plan.
Chisholm Park was established when the Chisholm family dedicated the land with clear guidelines that it be preserved as a public park for the community in perpetuity. In a controversial move a couple of years ago, Osceola County built a multi-million dollar facility for a well-connected nonprofit and leases it for well below the market rate. Public access to the park area leased to the nonprofit is restricted and citizens must pay to participate. This is in clear violation of the Chisholm family’s land dedication. The Osceola Board of County Commission decided to build on the property despite this violation of public trust and a large public outcry.
Because of this history and the status of the leased area of the park, locals are wary of this zoning change and are concerned about the future of Chisholm Park and other parks in the city.