By RICHARD BURGESS
February 27, 2013
LAFAYETTE — A park planned by the Muslim Education Center of Acadiana attracted opposition at Tuesday’s Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting from residents who said they were wary of whom the facility might attract.
At issue in the meeting was a request by the developers of MECA Park to be allowed to build a chain-link fence around the facility rather than the 6-foot tall sight-proof fence required by parish regulations, a variance the council ultimately approved.
“The idea is we want to invite people to come in,” said Robert Miller, the engineer on the project.
The park planned by the nonprofit cultural, religious and education group is taking shape on Teljean Road, off Johnston Street, in south Lafayette.
“I have grandkids and you have all these strange people in the neighborhood,” said resident Gary Mire, one of a small group of residents who turned out to speak against the project.
He added that the people he has seen at the site so far appear to be “all foreigners.”
Council Chairman Brandon Shelvin said that he sees no connection between nationality and crime and that there seem to be plenty of “Americans” who congregate at parks for illegal activity.
Mire said he was also suspicious because he and other residents were not informed about the current development or any future plans for the property.
Miller said the current plan calls for a soccer field, a basketball court, a children’s play area and a picnic shelter.
He said the park would be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Miller said he was not aware of any future plans for the property.
Any plans for major development beyond a park would need further approval from city-parish government, said Jim Parker, with the city-parish Department of Planning, Zoning and Codes.
Despite the objections raised by some area residents, the council had no power to block the park under the laws that govern developments outside of the city limits of Lafayette.
The only issue before the council on Tuesday was whether the development should be allowed to build the chain-link fence instead of a sight-proof one, and residents in the area said they would prefer a chain-link fence.
“I would like to see what’s going on in the park,” Mire said.