Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Common questions, answers about proposed park

November 15, 2000

Common questions I've received about the proposed business/recreation park and their answers:

Q. Comments made in the companion letters make the city's actions look like a "done deal." Is it?

A. No. When the city council asked me to strike the deal with Mr. Faulkner, they wanted to tie up this piece of land so it would be available as long as it takes to complete the analysis of the project. The option gives the city the ability to say at the end of 365 days one of three things: 1. We wish to purchase the property and move on with the project; 2. We wish to extend the option another year to further analyze issues; 3. We are no longer interested, thank you very much. The city council is not ready to say which of the three decisions is appropriate. They are still open minded.

Q. What is the thinking about the combined use recreation and business park?

A. As I noted earlier, the council wanted me to look at land for two different uses. We were looking at the 92 acres on U.S. Highway 56 before (and since) I came in 1998. The price on that ground was more expensive than what we were willing to pay. When we looked at the 160 acre property at nearly the same price, it was like getting 70 acres free.

With the 160 acre property it is easy to see a division of the property where recreation access and business park access will be. On-site traffic will not be commingled between the uses. The pond area becomes the buffer between the uses. If the property did not have the pond, I do not believe we would have considered joining the two uses. The presence of the pond says recreation. The thinking in the end is for the entire 160 acres be used for recreation and find another property for the business park. The property just north is the golf course and there might be a tie, either physically or by adjacent use, between the two properties.

Q. There is a rumor about the City Lake being sold so future property could be purchased. Is there anything to that discussion?

A. At the moment, there is no serious thought to selling the City Lake property. The council asked for an appraisal of the property. Its value (cost per acre) is a little less than the 160 acre property. A 9-hole golf course operated before WW II on that site. Thoughts of rebuilding the course have been raised. Trading the Lake property for the current golf course has been proposed from outside the administration. For the moment, however, it is not for sale.

Q. Why are there no details about the plans for this property?

A. There are no finite details about the project at this time because they haven't been spelled out yet. This the precise reason "an option to purchase" was agreed on by the city council. Everyone knows you put a plan together to see if what you envision will work. During that planning time, developers gather data about their project to determine profitability. We know the price of the land. The off site improvements for water, sewer and electric are part of existing capital plans. We also know the general cost of building roads. Since there will be some off-site benefit, we have not decided whether to allocate those costs to the recreation/business project or to the capital projects. On-site improvements have not been determined.

Q. What off site improvements are being considered?

A. Water pressure is not as high as we want it on the west side of town. A water tower is being considered. Towers generally cost $1 per gallon and we are evaluating whether a 200,000 to 500,000 gallon tank is needed. An electric distribution line is on the plan for 2002-2003 going down Orange street to Lawrence, then north to an existing 12,470 volt line. The line is part of the improvement plan for existing West Baldwin residential and light industrial zones. Current discussion about the treatment plant upgrade will impact off site improvements too.

If we were to consider the other Faulkner property for a business/light industrial park, we still have water, sewer and electric extension costs. The system maps for the three utilities look like there is generally the same distances to supply services to both properties. The difference on the Highway 56 property is that no off site street improvements will be required.

Q. Is grant money is available for this type of project?

A. Not much. There is Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) available when you have a business signed and ready to come to town. These funds are tied to developing infrastructure. A CDBG grant is probably the best option available for the economic development portion. One of the major drawbacks of the first Industrial Park was a decision not to install a sewer system there. It hampered the sale of the property and extended the time good business could be found to occupy the industrial park. Recreation development grants are available, according to Monte Ezell, Director of Recreation. They are usually available from sports foundations and directly tied to the construction of fields. Two examples are Major League Baseball for the construction of ball fields and the United States Soccer Association for constructing soccer fields. The only reasonable thought for recreation center grants is from foundations. There are no governmental grant funds being offered any longer.

Q. What about the claim you are not using a team approach?

A .About a year ago, the community nearly had land for recreation on a different site. The property owner changed his mind about selling. Jim White, Monte Ezell and I met and agreed on a plan where we could jointly purchase and use the proposed property. Since recreation commissions are not permitted by state law to own property, we were going to put a creative ownership package together. Since that deal fell apart we have not met. I have no doubt that the three agencies can work on this project in the future.

A final comment to this week's epistle. I am happy Ken Hayes is jazzed with my weekly letters. It tells me thinking is happening his, mine and the community's. For that, I am grateful. This intellectual exercise will eventually lead to a decision about what Baldwin City wants to be. Let's keep in focus, however, the economic development component of this discussion. Our city has infrastructure needs beyond what we as residential taxpayers can handle. We need the commercial/industrial assessed value to relieve homeowners of most of the burden. If we do not develop this sector we will see a steady increase in property tax and user fees. I do not want that any more than any other property owner in Baldwin City.

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