Some residents of Bellevue’s Yorkshire subdivision might be willing to buy a former quarry to keep a youth baseball facility out of their backyards.
At the Sept. 19 planning commission meeting, Yorkshire Preserve owner Jim Shelley presented his plan to turn 40 acres of his
112-acre property into a facility called Baseball on the Rocks. It would include eight baseball diamonds, including two lighted fields, a couple of two-story dorms for visiting baseball players, ages 10-16, and a 451-space parking lot.
Residents from the Yorkshire neighborhood spoke passionately against the idea, and the Bellevue planning commission tabled the issue.
Shelley recently hosted a private meeting about the preserve for Yorkshire residents only at Bellevue city offices. Bellevue City Council President Karen Justice authorized Shelley to use city offices for the private meeting with permission from Mayor David Kile.
Only Yorkshire neighbors were invited, and Kile said public
officials were advised not to attend so the meeting could not be considered public.
The main focus of the meeting, according to people who attended, was to explain what it would take for Yorkshire residents to buy and maintain the quarry, which is appraised at $240,000, according to a fact sheet Shelley gave neighbors.
Some of the neighbors want to form a limited liability partnership to buy the quarry from Shelley and to pay for the property’s high insurance costs. Shelley pays an estimated $10,000 per year for insurance, in addition to $600 in taxes and $1,500 for repairs to the fence surrounding the quarry.
Bob Himmelein of Burton, Ohio, who proposed the Baseball on the Rocks idea, offered Shelley $60,000 for the property, according to Shelley’s fact sheet.
Shelley gave the Yorkshire neighbors six months to make him an offer.
Several of the residents live on the south side of Parkview Place, which overlooks the quarry. The Register spoke with some of them Thursday afternoon, but they all declined to comment about the controversy on the record. Some of them said they’d been falsely labeled as “snobs” when all they were trying to do was protect their neighborhood.
“Would you want a baseball park in your backyard?” one neighbor asked.
Other neighbors said they weren’t against the project, but were afraid of being scorned by their own neighborhood.
One married couple, who declined to be named, said they spent their life savings from working as a nurse and an engineer to buy their Yorkshire home.
“For them to come in and try to change the zoning to put in these ballparks after we bought our home here is a violation of our trust,” one of them said. “We’re just regular working people. We’re not snobby people.”
State Trooper Mike Weber, 48, who lives on the north side of Parkview Place with his wife, Faith, said he doesn’t feel strongly one way or another about the ballfields.
“There’s pros and cons,” he said. “It would bring a better tax base, but it would also mean heavier traffic ... Everybody wants businesses in Bellevue, but everybody doesn’t want it in their yard. That’s human nature.”
Homemaker and mother of four Toni Walters has lived in the Yorkshire subdivision for four years with her husband, Chris.
The couple lives on Hilltop Court, which is adjacent to Parkview Place and away from Yorkshire Preserve.
Toni Walters said she doesn’t have a problem with ballfields being built in the preserve, and she doesn’t want to be part of the neighborhood’s effort to buy the property.
“If they want to buy it, they can buy it,” she said. “We have no desire being part owner of a quarry that we don’t get to look at.”
Several other neighbors also said they were against Baseball on the Rocks, but none of them would comment about it on the record.
At the planning commission meeting, Kile said he supports the idea.
“I’m fairly excited about this project as far as the possibilities it can bring to Bellevue as far as future development,” he said.
Kile said city officials have received numerous calls about Baseball on the Rocks, both in favor of it and against it.
He’s not surprised it’s such a hot topic.
“It’s just typical that anytime you do anything that’s a change, people are uncomfortable with change,” he said.
The commission’s next meeting is 2 p.m. Tuesday, but Kile said Baseball on the Rocks is not on the agenda.
“If (the planning commission) would decide to go ahead with that location, they would make a recommendation to council to make a special use permit to build in that location,” Kile said.
Shelley declined to comment about the private meeting Wednesday and did not return calls Thursday or Friday.