The Spring Lake Park City Council Nov. 16 approved a park dedication study, which provides rationale for a proposed $897 increase to the current park dedication fee and outlines ideas for $5.9 million in park improvements through 2040.

The park dedication fee has not changed in more than 30 years, so City Administrator Dan Buchholtz thought it might be time to revisit and reset that fee, he said.

The fee affects new residential development in the city, but also touches certain redevelopment – if commercial businesses become residential or if existing residential properties become denser. Currently, developers are charged $1,000 per residential unit in park dedication fees. The idea is that the money will fund park projects required with more park users.

“The (Parks and Recreation) Commission feels strongly that the park dedication fee is currently too low,” Parks and Recreation Director Marian Rygwall wrote in a memo to the City Council this month. “With previous budget cuts, the funding to keep our parks in ADA compliance and playground equipment safety compliant are a concern of the commission.”

Park dedication fees could help finance not only park maintenance, but also park improvements.

Though 98 percent of Spring Lake Park’s 2.2 square miles are already developed, the Metropolitan Council anticipates the population will grow to 7,500, or 15.2 percent, in the next 25 years. An estimated 987 individuals will occupy 411 new housing units, projections indicate.

Tasked with looking out 25 years, the Parks and Recreation Commission brainstormed a list of 26 park improvements it would like to see accomplished by 2040 – a mix of necessary maintenance, such as landscaping and lighting, and dream enhancements, such as a challenge course, community center and splash pads.

Projects on the list range from an estimated cost of $8,000 to $3.4 million for a total cost of $5.9 million.

New residents accounted for in projections should be responsible for 13.2 percent of the projects, as they will theoretically represent that same percentage of park system users, the study asserts. Therefore, new development should finance $779,678 of the $5.9 million in projects. Dividing that sum by the 411 anticipated housing units produces a park dedication fee of $1,897.

To account for the rest of the $5.1 million, the study suggests use of $224,209 in the park dedication fund and an annual general fund transfer of $196,110, which could come from issuance of debt, grants or other sources.

Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the study and bring it before the council, and the council followed up with its approval as part of the consent agenda Nov. 16.

The park dedication fee will not change until council passes a fee amendment next month; any changes would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

A fee of $1,897 is still lower than what neighboring cities charge, much lower than Blaine’s park dedication fee of $3,094 per housing unit.

A transfer of $196,110 is not included in the 2016 budget and will be considered on an annual basis in the coming years, Buchholtz said.

Park Improvements

The Parks and Recreation Commission typically looks five years out, but for the purposes of the park dedication study, the commission was asked to think bigger.

“It’s not often we allow a commission to really go out and dream,” Buchholtz said.

“That’s kind of exciting to us,” Commissioner Brad Delfs said. “That gives us a chance to think about the future and what we can do.”

The commission dreamed up 26 necessities and niceties it would like to see Spring Lake Park invest in over the next 25 years.

In the spring, the commission will tour other Twin Cities parks to fine-tune the list.

“It’s a fluid document. As things change and as the needs of the community change, then that document is also going to change,” Rygwall said.

Larger projects currently included on the list are park recreation building upgrades at Able and Terrace parks, roughly estimated to cost $425,000 and $350,000, respectively; splash pads at Lakeside Lions and Sanburnol parks for $300,000 apiece; new playground equipment at Sanburnol Park for $100,000; sunscreens for player benches at all appropriate parks to the tune of $126,000; a challenge course (location to be determined) for $250,000; and a community center with a roughly estimated price tag of $3.4 million.

Prices are generally inflated with these kinds of lists, Rygwall said. “You estimate for the highest need.”

Existing park recreation buildings at Able and Terrace parks are in rough shape, Rygwall said.

The buildings are multi-purpose, serving as a space for the public to rent out for meetings and parties, a warming house in the winter months and more.

With no community pools in the city, Spring Lake Park is looking to install splash pads at Lakeside Lions and Sanburnol parks so that residents have a place to beat the heat.

“People are always asking us every summer, ‘What water features do you have? Where can we go to cool off?’” Rygwall said.

Splash pads would allow residents to play in the water, but without the expense of lifeguards, Rygwall said.

Sanburnol has the oldest playground in the city, but could potentially be the site of a future community center, so no playground replacement will be planned until the city’s upcoming facility assessment and space needs analysis is complete.

The city is currently seeking a firm to conduct the assessment and analysis, which is expected to take off in January.

The idea of a community center has been talked about for some time in the city.

Delfs hears from residents that it’s something they want, he said.

The facility assessment and space needs analysis will include an exploration of what the addition of a “modest community center” might look like on the City Hall campus or elsewhere in the city.

Sunscreens for player benches would shield athletes from the hot sun when they’re off of the field, and a challenge course for older children and adults could be a revenue-producer with teams clamoring to rent courses in other cities, Rygwall said.

Park improvement took a backseat to park maintenance when the recession hit, Rygwall said. With improvements in the economy, hopefully the city will be able to shift back to park improvement alongside maintenance, she added.

“The council and the commission and staff all work together on prioritizing,” Rygwall said.

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