Bella Vista’s quest for public park hits a snag

An effort by residents in Bella Vista and Queen Village to turn a former gas station into a permanent green space could be in danger.

About five years ago, neighbors approached the owner of the triangular parcel bounded by Christian, Passyunk and Sixth streets in Bella Vista about cleaning up the blighted lot. Since then, the group has beautified the land, maintained it and asked the city’s Redevelopment Authority to purchase it to make it a permanent park.

The RDA transaction has been held up, however, and last week the owner put up a chain-linked fence around the property, which caught neighbors by surprise.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate as to the owner’s motive, but I know that he is not pleased with the pace of the process of acquisition,” said Joel Palmer, founder of Friends of Triangle Park and former president of Bella Vista Town Watch.

Palmer said residents would rather see the land remain a public green space than turned into houses.

The owner, Stuart Schlaffman, said he would like to sell it to the RDA and has begun negotiations, but he has not ruled out selling it to a private developer.

“I would love to see it go to them, but at the same time it is a private property, it was bought as an investment,” Schlaffman said.

He claimed that the fence is to signal to potential buyers that the land is still on the market.

“Perception is everything,”?he noted. “If a potential buyer’s perception is it’s a park, they’re going to think it’s not for sale.”