Once upon a time, there was a sports field…

… and that field was one of the most discussed topics in Oberursel.

In fact, it was one of the decisive issues the last time the town council was elected, when the CDU and FDP were in favour of selling it to fund the new swimming pool, SPD, the Green party and OBG were against doing so.

How fast the parties can change their position became apparent last year, when the SPD and Green party sided with the CDU in a vote on the funding of the swimming pool project with a clause stating that the sports field would be sold if an alternative could not be found by the middle of 2013.

That paragraph was quoted by many of the speakers at the debate on the issue when the town council met in February 2013, and at this point the real meaning of the clause became apparent. “The sports field is to be sold if planning permission for an alternative cannot be arranged by mid-2013” would be a rough translation. And it’s that planning permission that changes everything, because rather than giving the town almost a year to find that alternative, it gave them only 5 months. The argument being, that the council needed to decide in February whether to sell the field, if planning permission is to be arranged on time.

The Altkoenigsportplatz in September 2012

The Altkönigsportplatz in September 2012

Admittedly the sale is not a straightforward as it could have been. Recent additions to the plans require a green puffer to be left between the houses and the Mühlenwanderweg, and the town needs to find a new home for the sports club that currently uses the field.

Speaking for the SPD at the council meeting, Councillor Jutta Niesel-Heinrichs said that they had not wanted to sell the field, but with the OBG leaving the coalition, the did not have a choice.

The FDP took an interesting position, saying that although they had been in favour of selling the field originally, this had been to fund a completely new swimming pool with outdoor pool and sauna. They would not agree to selling the field if the money is only going to be used on the indoor pool.

The OBG put out a statement saying that they believe the sports field is the “easy option”. They point out that the town was meant to be looking for alternatives, an indeed they appear to have compared a number of pieces of land including the sports field, rather than just considering the alternatives to it.

But the OBG go further and believe that the swimming pool can be funded without the field being sold off. They base this claim on the fact that the land sold so far has raised more money than expected, and that if this trend continues the other land that is set to be sold would be sufficient to cover the building costs. Councillor Andreas Bernhardt, their financial representative, went as far as claiming that the sports field is only being sold “because the CDU wants to”.

And it is the CDU who have held their position through all of the debates since that election in 2011. They have always been in favour of building the pool and have always been in favour of financing it by selling off the field. They probably lost votes in that election as a result, and now two years later they are not only getting their way, but making political capital out of it as well. Councillor Jens Uhlig used his speech at the council meeting to accuse the OBG changing direction like a set of hairpin turns (“Serpentinen”).

He said that before the election the OBG had been against the new indoor pool, after the election they wanted new indoor and outdoor pools and the sports field, then they wanted an indoor pool without the outdoor pool being repaired, then they considered it impossible to finance the new indoor pool, and now they claim it can be financed without the sports field.

“With all of these changes of direction in their arguments, I feel like I am on a stage of the Tour de France”, he said. “Just as the spectators don’t want to see doped sportsmen, they don’t want to see politicians who fly their flag in all directions”, he continued.

Strangely Councillor Robert Rethfeld from the OBG agreed with the hairpin turn analogy. But insisted that they had always been against selling the Altkönigsportplatz, whichever way they voted on the swimming pool.

In the vote that followed, the CDU, SPD, Green Party and Linke voted for the sale. The FDP and OBG voted against. The motion was carried and the field will now enter the planning process.

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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