A VOTE on whether Limerick Youth Service (LYS) can develop on the northside has been postponed - so councillors can find a different site to build.
But the boss of the youth service has insisted the Ballynanty site is their only option.
LYS want to build a multi-level centre on a green space in the shadow of Thomond Park.
Having been given €1.8m by the JP McManus Foundation, they have cleared all the planning hurdles.
But the community is split, with many fearing a loss of amenity, a devaluation of their homes and an increase in anti-social behaviour.
As it is public land, it is ultimately up to councillors to decide whether they are allowed to build.
And on Monday night, the decision was put on hold, with many councillors seeking a compromise on the matter.
More than 100 people in favour and against the development packed into the chamber to hear the crunch vote, with many carrying placards to indicate their feelings.
However, early on in the meeting, Mayor Kathleen Leddin said the decision was to be deferred for a month “to allow all councillors to be better informed.”
The motion, seconded by Cllr Gerry McLoughlin, drew a round of applause from the opposition committee.
However, it was a representative of LYS, Frank Daly, who hailed the deferral as a “moral victory”, while Cllr Tom Shortt said he believes his colleagues got “stage fright”.
Speaking after the meeting, Fine Gael’s party whip, Cllr Jim Long said: “We were very conscious of dividing the community long term. We had to make a conscious decision to postpone this, and seek an alternative or a compromise.”
Asked if this meant that LYS would be encouraged to look at other sites, he said: “I think that would be a fair comment”.
Anne-Marie Stacke, chairperson of the opposition committee welcomed this, saying: “This is exactly what we want: a compromise. I know this community will get 100% behind the LYS to find an alternative site better for everybody.”
However, LYS director Catherine Kelly said this is not a possibility.
In a move which is likely to heighten tensions, she said: “Moving it outside the Ballynanty area won’t be possible, because the funding would not travel, and the Limerick Youth Service would not be able to afford to continue running such a building.”
She said Ballynanty site is their “one and only focus”.
Councillor Shortt - who has backed the youth service from the start - believes his colleagues are “shying away” from making a decision.
He said: “I often think a horse comes to a jump and just shies away: it needs more time. There is massive stress on councillors. It gets to them, and they often get stagefright, and back away from the decision.” Councillors finally vote on the project on Tuesday, October 29.