Garland mayor resigns over controversial skate park vote

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The mayor of Garland is resigning after the city council’s vote on the location of a new dog and skate park.

Mayor Douglas Athas said he could not continue to work with a council that does not listen to its citizens.

"For me, I have to do what I consider honorable and what I consider moral,” the mayor said.

During a Tuesday night meeting, the council approved the park in spite of vocal opposition from neighbors. The new park would replace a National Guard Armory that has been around for decades.

Plans call for the armory to be demolished to make way for the skate park. The dog park would be built next to where there’s currently a little league field.

Mayor Athas said the development process has been conducted without adequate public input and said the opposition was not considered.

"I don't have confidence that this will be a good location. It's going to cost us perhaps millions extra to put it there with the demolition of a building that is perfectly usable,” Athas said. “We didn't go through the process, and I don't believe we are making a good decision. "

The mayor believes there are other sites around the city that would be cheaper with better public access for the dog and skate parks. After the vote, Athas announced he would be resigning.

“The people said they do not wish to go forward and tear this down. The truth is, we do not have to put a skate park and a dog park precisely right here. There are other open spaces,” he said. “This deeply saddens me. I don’t feel like we followed the processes. I’m announcing that I will be resigning as mayor in the very near future. I will give you the effective date in the very near future.”

There were some people at the meeting in favor of the skate park. They argued a recent sporting goods poll showed nationally more children own skateboards than baseball gloves.

“I was excited to hear about the plans for a Garland skate park that will provide so much enjoyment, exercise and social interaction,” said Clinton Hailey, a Garland physician and father. “You only have to look around the Metroplex to see that the other suburbs have realized they’re important.”

Bonnie Thomas lives nearby and welcomes the dog park for her pets, Roxy and Buddy. She thinks the skate park is also a good idea.

"You've got a lot of kids who come here. The skate park would be ideal,” she said. “I mean we probably couldn't keep them out of it."

However, Beverly Darnell agrees with Mayor Athas.

"We were shut out of this,” she said. “The meeting last night was just for show. Minds were made up. This was going to go forward as fast as possible."

Athas said he would not call a special election to choose his successor. He said he would announce his official resignation date in the near future. The next mayor will be elected in May of next year.

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