Council Wants Subcommittee to Continue Looking into Buying More Parkland

March 26, 2012

The West U City Council has asked a Parks and Recreation subcommittee to move forward with parkland acquisition and to keep looking at properties that could someday become a new park.

Council met tonight with a three-member subcommittee of the parks board for a presentation about acquiring more parkland.

Click to download presentation:  ParksFramework_WestU (2)

The subcommittee is made up of Parks Chair John Wilkinson, Friends of West U Parks Chair Leah Ragiel and parks board member Burt Ballanfant. The committee has been exploring the possibility of acquiring more parkland for several months.

Wilkinson said the group has been looking at the city’s park master plan from 2000, which has been largely executed with support from the Friends of West U Parks.

The goal is to have a park within walking distance of all West U residents in all quadrants of the city.

Wilkinson said the subcommittee is looking at acquiring parkland in the area east of Auden and west of Buffalo Speedway.

The land would need to be a minimum of 100 feet by 200 feet or 0.5 acres and would preferably be on a corner lot on a secondary and through street, he said.

West U currently has 11 parks, totaling 12.6 acres. All of the parks are located on corner lots.

Wilkinson said they wouldn’t want the park to be on a main or high trafficked street like Weslayan or Buffalo Speedway.

The committee is proposing that the city build a capital fund with several funding options including seed money from city land sales, a monthly fee supplement, donations through Friends and a bond issue.

“We have some windows of opportunity out there but they’re closing rapidly as lots get sold up,” Wilkinson said.

The group also outlined a timeline for acquiring parkland, which includes:

–          Seek staff and council approval of framework (PRB, 1Q 2012)

–          Form task force with expertise in municipal financing (City, 2Q 2012)

–          Possible referendum on funding options (City, 4Q 2012)

–          Establish parks acquisition capital fund (city, 1Q 2013)

–          Short list 2-3 options for suitable parks and secure first rights of refusal agreements (PRB and City, 2Q 2013)

“What you’ve done today is a good starting point for future discussions,” Councilman Ed Heathcott said.

After the presentation, the group asked that the council go into a closed executive session to discuss specific properties.

No action was taken when council came out of their closed executive session.

Voters approved $2 million in bonds for parkland acquisition in 2006, but the city never issued the bonds. The bonds have to be used within 10 years or they expire.

City Manager Michael Ross told InstantNewsWestU that he senses that council would not want to spend $2 million without voter approval. There could be a referendum on the November ballot, he said.

Mayor Bob Fry said he would like to see the $2 million bond referendum brought back to the voters.

“Under circumstances that made sense, I would like to see more parkland,” he said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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