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Highland Park location undetermined

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tim and Jennifer Reilly (left) speak to Highland City Council at a special meeting Oct. 26 regarding their request for the city to pay $3,500 for land needed for the proposed city park. Photo/Tammy Curtis
The city of Highland met Oct. 26 in a special meeting to attempt to attain land belonging to Pete Reilly for the completion of a park in Hidden Valley.

Highland received a grant to fund the park but after the plans were in place the city realized they needed to obtain more property.

Two tracts of land bordering the proposed park near Lake Mirandy were needed to begin construction on the park.

The city was able to purchase one tract for the appraised valued. The second tract belongs to Reilly.

Reilly, who is incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections spoke with his children Tim and Jennifer and said he would not accept the offer for the appraised value of $2,286, and instead requested the city pay $3,500 for the property.

The family said that was the amount they had invested in the property. Later, City Attorney Jon Abele said according to public record, the Reilly's had purchased the land for $500 in back taxes.

Jennifer Reilly, who has power of attorney over her father said she had several concerns with the park being located in the area.

She said the family was never approached about the city purchasing the property until after they heard about the park in the news.

Reilly, said she has lived in Hidden Valley her whole life, and the property was purchased by her father as an investment in which they may sometime build a home on the property, which borders the lake.

Among her concerns were children utilizing the park as a hang out and participating in illicit activities. Because the location was off the main highway, Reilly said she thought it might encourage this type of behavior. She also said there was an old trailer near the park and was concerned that would also be an area to harbor illegal activities.

Mayor Richard Smith assured Reilly the park would be both lighted and patrolled. While the mayor said he realized this type of activity was always a concern, regardless of location, he felt the increased patrol and lighting would serve as a deterrent.

Smith then compared the park to those in Cherokee Village, which are also isolated from the main highway and stated, "To my knowledge there is not a problem with illicit activity there."

Tim Reilly said he felt a location on the highway might be more appropriate, while both said they supported the boat ramp, which is a separate grant and will bring better access to the lake.

Alderman Jack Kimbrell asked if the city was committed to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Grant for the boat ramp near the park and if the city opts to not purchase the property, if there were other options for the park's location.

The mayor explained to council the park could go anywhere as long as the land was owned by the city.

Kimbrell said, "The intention was to do something good for Hidden Valley, if not, then we need to put it somewhere it will."

He then used the Salem City Park as an example, citing the park was very successful and also utilized a lake. Kimbrell suggested utilizing the money that would be spent on the Reilly property to construct a lake or pond near the park.

Discussion from Aldermen Joe Black and Larry Allen followed. Both men agreed the park would increase property value in Hidden Valley.

Allen told the Reilly's property is not selling for what people want. "We are paying to light it and police it, I suggest we stick to the price we set. I just can't see us paying more than it is worth."

Abele suggested the city offer appraised value for both properties needed for the park and to not go very much above the price.

The first land owner accepted the offer of the appraised valued. Kimbrell said he felt it was setting precedent if the city were to offer $3,500. The city council also proposed a counter offer for $2,500 to the Reilly's for the property. Jennifer said, "Dad told us he will not take less than $3,500."

Abele explained to the family the city was not in the position to pay more than the certified appraised value of the property without the Reilly's providing documentation of the land's value.

Council then voted not to accept the Reilly's request.

The matter will be revisited at the Nov. 7 city council meeting.

The Reilly's were invited back to the meeting to bring documentation of the value of the land. If they can not provide this, the city will explore other options for location of the proposed park.

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