Town officials asked for public input about how to develop the 92-acre Pleasant Park, and they got it.
Now they face divided opinions about one of the leading suggestions from residents – building a YMCA and possibly a competition-level pool.
At recent public meetings, different contingents of residents have disagreed about whether a YMCA would be a good addition to the property.
The 92-acre park, located to the southwest of the Salem Street/Old U.S. 1 and N.C. 540 intersection, will likely be built in the next several years. Apex spent $3.4 million last year buying the land.
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On Aug. 4, a group of older residents spoke to the Town Council to say they don’t want a senior center on the property, nor do they want a YMCA. They said they don’t like the idea of the town helping the privately funded YMCA with donated land or other incentives.
“How does the town as a whole benefit from helping a private company on public land,” resident Cindy Foster asked. “Why should our tax dollars go to a private company that turns a profit?”
But a petition has been circulating online in support of a YMCA, particularly one with a competition level swimming pool.
Paige Williams, who lives in Apex, presented the Town Council on Aug. 18 with a petition of more than 850 signatures in favor of a YMCA at Pleasant Park. She argues that Apex needs a pool for children who swim competitively for their schools.
There’s no pool for the teams to use in town, she said. Apex High School students practice at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
Yet for students at the new Apex Friendship High School, Williams said, that drive would be an hour-long round trip. Pleasant Park, on the other hand, is about a two-minute drive from the new school.
“In our area, 10,000 children participate in summer league swimming,” Williams said. “Two thousand just here in Apex participate.”
She said building a pool would be too expensive for the town and school system, and that’s where the YMCA comes in. The YMCA charges membership fees and has other ways of raising funds.
Council member Nicole Dozier said high school swim teams are the responsibility of the Wake County Public School System. She asked Williams, who is not associated with the school district, what the school system could do.
“I don’t think it’s feasible a pool would be built, honestly,” said Williams, who co-owns Great Harvest Bread Company in Cary. “We can’t even keep up with the classroom space required in this area.”
Apex officials have said they want Pleasant Park to draw competitions and tournaments, due to their economic benefit. Williams said a typical three-day regional swim meet could bring in about $71,000 to the local economy.
“I’m a business owner,” she said. “I’d love to get some of that revenue.”
However, the YMCA idea has made nearby residents of Pleasant Park wary. Several of them came to oppose it, right after Williams made her pitch.
“Nothing against the Y, it’s a laudable organization in all that they do,” said Tony Santitoro, who lives on three acres of land on Pleasant Plains Road, next to the the proposed park.
He said 38 homes are on the road, which is the only thoroughfare into Pleasant Park. It’s a heavily wooded, quiet area except for the occasional train.
He said he worries that will change when the park is built, and a YMCA would only make it worse.
“We can count on lights and a lot of yelling and screaming every night until 10 o’clock,” Santitoro said.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran