Archive for Thursday, September 30, 2004

City leaders call for action on parks

Planner says be decisive on when, where in platting process

September 30, 2004

If Eudora wants to improve its lot in the park department, civic leaders said the city needed to stop talking about getting more parks and start taking some action.
When members of the Eudora City Council, Eudora Planning Commission and USD 491 Board of Education met with developers and other community members Sept. 23 to discuss the town's growth, civic leaders talked about how they could make more parks happen.
Planning Commission member Richard Campbell said the city needed to stop talking about getting more parkland and instead put money in the budget and go out and buy it.
The Council recently approved a 2005 budget that allows $38,000 in a park development fund intended for acquiring land. However, city leaders decided that because such funds were often inadequate for purchasing land that the money would be better spent on improving the city's existing parks with new equipment, signage, surfacing, lighting and other amenities.
Randell Graves, the city's planning consultant, said the first step was for the city to decide how much park land it wanted and where. If the comprehensive plan called for a park in an area of land being platted, Graves said the city needed to figure out a way to make it happen.
The comprehensive plan the city adopted last year calls for development of both small "pocket" parks in growing neighborhoods as well as a large "destination park." Planning Commission member Rose House said it would be important to continue developing neighborhood parks like the eastside park currently underway, within walking distance of residences in addition to a large regional park to which most Eudorans would have to drive.
Even if the city knows where it wants parks, getting the land is a problem that has cropped up again and again in Eudora. Because the city has asked for a donation of land or a set amount per lot, developers usually go for the latter, and that hasn't put much in city coffers to acquire more parkland. City Administrator Mike Yanez the city would get about $200 per lot and developers would want to sell land back at $40,000.
But that was what it cost developers to give up the land, said local developer Brett Fritzel. Having more parks would be a great selling point for homes -- if developers could afford it.
"I want a clubhouse and a swimming pool, but we can't make it work out," he said.
Planning Commission Chairman Kurt von Achen said maybe the city should take land during the platting process rather than accepting cash.
In the same vein, City Council member Rex Burkhardt suggested requiring developers to set aside a corner of their development for a park so that when an adjacent lot was developed the corner park of that neighborhood would match up. Eventually, Burkhardt said, the four corner parks would develop into a larger plot.
"That way we don't put so much pressure on one developer to give us a huge park," he said.
There was a time when the city turned down offers for parks, von Achen said, because it couldn't handle the maintenance such parks required. But that wasn't necessarily the case anymore.
Moreover, city leaders said Eudorans wanted and expected access to parks, even if that meant using land intended for other purposes. USD 491 Board member Greg Neis said people seemed to think school property was a park, which it wasn't.
"People take their dogs on the practice field," Neis said.
Council member Tom Pyle said the need and desire for parks was apparent.
"Everybody that moves in the community likes a local park," he said.

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