Coon Rapids voters to decide on park bond referendum

Coon Rapids voters will decide the fate of a proposed $17.4 million parks and trails referendum in Tuesday’s election.

It is the only citywide issue on the Nov. 5 ballot; there are no Coon Rapids City Council seats up for grabs in this year’s election.

However, some precincts in Coon Rapids will have Anoka-Hennepin District 11 School Board races on the ballot, although in one case the sitting school board member is unopposed.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Coon Rapids’ 22 precincts.

The park bond issue, if approved, sets aside an estimated $15 million for parks and trails construction, with $1.35 million allocated for design and testing work, $750,000 for contingency and $270,000 for bond issue charges (underwriting and legal/financing).

When an anticipated $5.1 million in interest on the bonds to be paid back by the city over 20 years is factored in, the overall cost is $22.47 million.

With referendum approval, the parks and trails improvements would take place over a period of six to eight years beginning in 2015.

According to the information brochure distributed by the city, the tax increase impact on residential, commercial and apartment property owners, if the referendum passes, is estimated as follows:

• Home valued at $125,000, monthly increase $2.73 and $32.75 yearly.

• Home valued at $150,000, $3.48 a month increase, $41.77 a year.

• Home valued at $200,000, monthly increase $4.98 and $59.80 a year.

• Home valued at $300,000, increase of $7.99 a month, $95.85 a year.

• Commercial property valued at $300,000, $8.77 increase a month, $105.26 a year.

• Commercial property valued at $500,000, monthly tax increase of $15.45, for the year $185.46.

• Commercial property valued at $1 million, monthly increase $32.16 with a $385.96 annual hike.

• Apartment building valued at $500,000, the monthly increase would be $17.23 with $206.75 annually.

The decision by the council to move forward with the park bond referendum came following completion in 2012 of an updated parks and trials master plan which set priorities for parks and trails improvements, and a recommendation from the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreations Commission based on those priorities.

In putting together the referendum, five cornerstone parks, which are larger parks in the city, have been earmarked for improvements – Crooked Lake, Sand Creek, Pheasant Ridge, Riverview and Lions Coon Creek.

In addition, the council and commission identified four neighborhood parks as top priorities for upgrades – Woodcrest, Delta, Mason and Riverwind.

There will also be a new park created, Boulevard Park on Coon Rapids Boulevard, and upgrades to the rest rooms at the Coon Rapids Soccer Complex.

As well, the council and commission are proposing to spend a good deal of the bond issue proceeds, if approved, on enhancing and expanding the city’s trail system.

Proposed improvement to parks and trails are spelled out in the information brochure distributed by the city, but are not final.

• Sand Creek Park, full renovation and new park layout with new softball, baseball, football, lacrosse, hockey and skating, playgrounds, picnic facilities, splash pad and improved parking.

• Riverview Park, new half basketball court, tennis courts/pickleball, skate park, improved pedestrian access and parking and looping trail system.

• Crooked Lake Beach Park, large picnic shelter, new playground, tennis courts/pickleball, improved pedestrian access and trails plus parking improvements.

• Lions Coon Creek Park, partial renovation to  improve layout of the park, large picnic shelter, upgraded play area, basketball and volleyball courts, possible expanded parking and plans to address environmental concerns including parking runoff and creek erosion.

• Pheasant Ridge Park, improved trails/connections, educational nodes, group picnic shelter, new playground and other amenities.

• Riverwind Park, new play area with shaded seating, basketball court, small skate park, pedestrian access and trail improvements and parking upgrades.

• Delta Park, new playground, trail improvements, basketball court, small picnic shelter and enhanced green space.

• Mason Park, half-basketball court, new play area with shaded seating, expanded nature trails, ballfield replacement and possible exercise stations.

• Woodcrest Park, new playground, new picnic shelter, basketball court, improved parking and trails and disc golf.

• Construction of Boulevard Park in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center, with interactive water feature or splash pad, play area and general picnic space with seating.

• Coon Rapids Soccer Complex, rest rooms will be renovated and upgraded.

• Completion of several trail connections including Coon Creek Regional Trail, Sand Creek Linkage Trail, 85th Avenue trail connection to Kennedy Park, Mississippi Regional Trail, middle and northern linkage trails and filling gaps on other trails.

If the referendum passes Nov. 5, 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.

These plans will be presented at neighborhood meetings that will take place for residents living in the areas of the parks where construction is scheduled to take place.

The vote to move forward with the park bond issue came following an April 24 council work session, at which commission members were present, to receive results from the citywide survey which focused on residents’ views on the park bond referendum.

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 several councilmembers that the figure was too high.

The referendum budget was shaved some 20 percent to $17.4 million.

The largest reduction, $3.1 million, came through eliminating filling in sidewalk gaps that were part of the original proposal,.

The sidewalk gaps are now proposed to be funded through the annual budget process.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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