The Coon Rapids City Council took formal action Tuesday to set the park bond referendum at a not-to-exceed $17.2 million figure and to nail down the projects that will be included.
Last month the council decided to have a park bond referendum on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 election ballot, but did not make a final decision on the amount or projects, although $17.2 million was the consensus.
At a work session May 28, the council had a further discussion on the amount and the projects and by consensus agreed that the $17.2 million would stay and the proposed projects to be funded would not change.
“We are going to the residents to see if they are willing to invest for the future,” said Mayor Tim Howe at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“The park system is part of the city’s future.”
The project list approved by the council Tuesday includes:
• Sand Creek Park, full renovation, new tennis courts/skate park, $5,700,000.
• Riverview Park, redevelopment according to the 2011 plan, plus new skate park, playgrounds, T-ball fields, $1,400,000.
• Crooked Lake Beach Park, full renovation to improve layout, tennis courts, trails, playground, $900,000.
• Regional trails expansion – Coon Creek, Sand Creek and 85th Avenue – $1.6 million.
• Eliminating trail gaps, $4,100,000.
• Lions Coon Creek Park, improve layout and group shelters, renovate play areas, $900,000.
• Riverwind Park, new basketball court, small skate park, playground and renovate parking/trails, $500,000.
• Delta Park, complete renovation, $300,000.
• Mason Park, complete renovation and improve passive amenities, $300,000.
• Woodcrest Park, complete renovation, new play area and shelter, disc golf, $600,000.
• Pheasant Ridge Park, improve trails/connections, update playground and amenities, new group shelter, $200,000.
• Construction of Boulevard Park in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center, splash pad, play area, picnic space/seating, $600,000.
According to Councilmember Ron Manning, there had been some discussion prior to the decision to go ahead with the park bond referendum about removing Riverwind Park ($500,000) and/or Boulevard Park ($600,000) from the list of projects in an effort to reduce the size of the bond issue.
But Howe said that the Parks and Recreation Commission had worked long and hard on this referendum proposal, it had already been reduced from the original plan and he was not prepared to make any more changes.
Like other councilmembers, there were parts of the referendum proposal he did not necessarily support, but he would vote yes on the total package, according to Howe.
In Councilmember Jerry Koch’s view, the trails’ expansion and gap filling are the most important part of the package, he said.
“I like it the way it is,” Councilmember Denise Klint said.
“I want to keep Boulevard Park to keep the momentum going on the redevelopment of the Coon Rapids Boulevard corridor.”
Councilmember Paul Johnson was satisfied with the amount, but it will be up to the voters to make the decision, he said.
“Boulevard Park will improve the visual impact of the boulevard,” Johnson said.
Resident Greg Leone, who had expressed his concerns about the cost of the bond issue and the impact on taxpayers at the open mik session of the council’s May 21 meeting, repeated those concerns at the work session.
Having the election in an off year will decrease participation and the council should focus on lowering the crime rate and improving streets, not the parks and trails, he said.
Businessman and resident Phil Rosar, who owns industrial building in the city, said the park bond issue would have a greater property tax impact on businesses than homeowners and they would receive no benefit from the park improvements.
With the property tax impact of the park bond referendum, Rosar feared some businesses “would go somewhere else,” he said. “This is taxation without benefit,” Rosar said.
But Johnson said the people who live in the community help the businesses in the city make a profit by being their customers.
“I do see a benefit for businesses in the city because people will continue to live here with the amenities the city provides and do business with them,” he said.
One policy issue for the council to decide at a later date is where the annual Fourth of July celebration, which is at Sand Creek Park, would take place if the referendum passes and the park is under construction, according to Gatlin.
He suggested the proposed new Boulevard Park on Coon Rapids Boulevard in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center, Gatlin said.
In addition, the concept drawing for the Sand Creek Park redevelopment may not leave enough room for the Fourth of July celebration activities once the reconstruction is complete because the space available would be reduced, he said.
As well, there has been some neighborhood opposition to a skate park being located at Riverwind Park, something for the council to consider, Gatlin said.
According to Gatlin, the city currently has only one skate park – at Sand Creek Park – after the skate park at Cook Ice Arena went away when the arena was demolished.
Besides continuing the skate park in Sand Creek Park, the park referendum proposes new skate parks at both Riverwind and Riverview parks.
The vote to move forward with the park bond issue came after an April 24 council work session, at which members of the Parks and Recreation Commission were present, to receive results from the citywide survey which focused on residents’ views on the proposed park bond issue.
Following that meeting, staff took another look at the original $21.5 million proposal and the projects included in it in light of the survey results and a feeling from some councilmembers that the figure was too high.
Staff recommended that the referendum budget be shaved some 20 percent to $17.2 million.
The Evergreen Dog Park, which was opposed by a majority of residents responding to the survey, was eliminated.
In addition, improvements proposed for Crooked Lake Beach Park have been scaled back and do not include beach upgrades, according to Gatlin. As well, the large shelter building originally included in the Riverview Park reconstruction was removed, Gatlin said.
However, another neighborhood park, Pheasant Ridge, was added to the referendum projects, he said.
But the largest reduction, $3.1 million, came through cutting out filling in sidewalk gaps that were part of the original proposal, according to Gatlin.
The sidewalk gaps are now recommended to be funded through other sources, possibly by appropriating $300,000 over the next 10 years from state Local Government Aid(LGA), Gatlin said.
The tax bill passed by the 2013 Legislature includes some $1 million in LGA dollars for Coon Rapids, although the Legislature made it clear that most, if not all, of that amount should be earmarked for property tax relief, he said.
Gatlin provided the council with the property tax impact of the $17.2 million bond issue if it passes.
• On a benchmark $150,000 value home, the tax increase would be $39.72 per year or $3.31 per month.
• On a $300,000 value home, the tax impact would be $91.17 per year or $7.60 per month.
According to Gatlin, if approved the park bond issue program would be implemented over a 10-year period.
An informational brochure on the referendum is now being prepared for mailing to all property owners, but the city, by law, cannot promote the bond issue, Gatlin said.
If the referendum passes Nov. 5, then detailed plans for each park will be prepared by the consultant, WSB, the city hired to develop the updated master plan for the city’s parks and trails, which ranked priorities for improvements from which the park referendum projects were determined.
At Klint’s suggestion, those plans would be presented at neighborhood meetings that would take place for residents living in the areas of the parks where construction would take place if the referendum passes.
Peter Bodley is at email@example.com