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BY REBECCA J. BARNABI
Colonial Beach residents urged town officials this week to hold off on a sale of the former Eleanor Trailer Park property.
"I don't think there should ever be haste in selling a town property off," Wanda Goforth told council members Thursday night. "That is a forever decision."
She said if the property must be sold, the council should wait until the real estate market improves.
That sentiment was shared by many of the residents who spoke before the council. Several questioned why land that has been vacant for two years was being discussed just before council elections in November.
Eleanor was designated one of three town parks in the original 1882 plat of Colonial Beach. It was a campground and then, as travel trailers became popular, became a place to park them. Eventually, the park was carved into 48 trailer spaces rented out by the town.
The Town Council decided in 2006 to sell the 3.47 acres along the Potomac River and residents were forced to move. But the collapse of the real estate market delayed any further action.
The council had advertised that a portion of Thursday's regular meeting would be set aside for public input on what to do with the property. Although Goforth said the two-week notice was not enough time to get town residents' attention, there were few empty seats at the Town Center on Thursday.
Diana Pearson, who said she has been coming to council meetings for more than 55 years, asked council members not to sell the property. She said the town should keep the land to use as collateral to borrow money.
Alan J. Jarvis said he had no objections to selling the property, but said the town should wait for real estate prices to increase. He urged the council to wait until after election season to make a decision.
Douglas Gasterland said his grandparents camped on the property before it was a trailer park and later built a cottage there. After the destruction wrought by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Gasterland acquired a lot on the north side and also built a retirement community adjacent to the trailer park.
He urged the council to make sure any future use of the land "creates an environment suitable for family life."
Turning the land into a park is an idea that has been discussed previously. Colonial Beach Tourism Council Chairwoman Trish King said the town already has parks and should use the property as a future "income stream."
Councilman Jim Chiarello told the crowd that no decisions had been made about what to do with the property. He suggested forming a committee of residents to guide the planning.
Councilman Gary Seeber agreed with Chiarello's idea, as well as another suggestion to send the matter to the Planning Commission for discussion. He said the timing of the session had nothing to do with next month's election.
"This was just something we wanted to do to get public input," Seeber said.