While four members of the Plymouth City Council voted Sept. 10 to approve preliminary plans to expand the city’s community center, three members voted against the estimated $51 million project.
There were 21 residents who spoke at the forum during the council. The majority of those who spoke said they were in favor of the project, citing the need for more programming and athletic space due to increasing demand and use of the facility.
The 20-year-old community center has been the topic of discussion since 2016 when the council approved a feasibility study on a future renovation and expansion, which progressed to a community engagement process in 2018 and developing preliminary design plans this year.
The preliminary plans will update and expand the center from 26,000 square feet to 111,410 square feet and include an indoor walking track, indoor playground, two gymnasiums, three fitness rooms, three senior rooms, five multi-purpose rooms, additional music room, and an updated ballroom. It was also made clear that the council was not voting on any specific plans, rather moving forward with the design process, which will evolve over the next few months.
“Go big or go home” was the sentiment of one resident who suggested the council include a third gym into the project. The plans currently show space for a future third gymnasium.
Other residents expressed opposition to the project, stating it’s a want not a need and more essential projects, such as public safety and public works, should be prioritized over a recreational facility. Some also suggested paying for the expansion through user fees rather than property taxes.
Mayor Jeff Wosje said he sees the community center, along with the city’s parks and trails, as essential to the quality of life expected by Plymouth residents.
Councilmember Nick Roehl said he was disappointed that the process didn’t include finding other solutions for recreation needs to accommodate the growing city, such as utilizing existing commercial space including private businesses like Mini Hops Gymnastics.
“The marketplace of city government has already decided that,” Wosje said, noting this is something residents expect cities to provide for the quality of life factor.
Jake Vernon, from Wayzata Youth Basketball Association, noted that Plymouth is “falling a little behind for infrastructure for youth” compared to other surrounding communities.
“We can do it, and we should do it, without a significant effect on the tax base,” Vernon said, adding that the association currently rents gym space in other communities, whereas that money would stay in Plymouth with the expansion.
“I’m not in support of doing this right now,” said Councilmember Jim Prom. He said he wants to prioritize the proposed upgrades to two of the city’s three fire stations, currently estimated to cost $15 million.
Prom also noted that he wasn’t confident those costs wouldn’t increase, just as the cost of the Plymouth Creek Center increased through the process from a $30 million project to a $51 million project.
The financial impact for the owners of a $350,000 home is estimated at $49 to $88 per year or $4 to $7 per month based on the funding scenarios. The city is also seeking $15 million in state bond funds and may consider a lodging tax to help offset the cost.
Voting to approve the preliminary plans were Wosje and members Jim Davis, Jim Willis and Ned Carroll. Voting against were members Alise McGregor, Prom and Roehl.
The design process will continue through June 2020 with construction anticipated to begin in September 2020 for an expected completion date of September 2022.
2020 budget and levy tabled until Sept. 30
The council tabled adopting the preliminary budget and levy until Tuesday, Sept. 24, to refine the numbers to include the Plymouth Creek Center project.
The proposed 2020 levy is currently at $37.8 million or a 4.98% increase from 2019.
The general fund budget of $43.5 million is an increase of $1.85 million from 2019. Significant changes are primarily salary and benefit increases, including five new positions – three firefighters, one communication specialist, and one parks maintenance worker.
Other council business
In other business, the council:
• Approved the Oakwood Elementary expansion plans in a 6-1 vote with Davis voting against it due to the elevated process.
At the Aug. 27 meeting, the council tabled the plan to the first October meeting to allow time to resolve issues with expiring joint powers agreements with the Wayzata School District for the facility uses as the expansion will eliminate one of the city’s ballfields.
The council met with the district before the council meeting and added it to the evening’s agenda to not disrupt the district’s construction timeline. The city will continue working with the district on the joint powers agreements.
Wosje noted the city has had great communication with the district in the past and he wants that relationship to continue.
• Approved the site plan for the Northwest Greenway Trailhead on Peony Lane, in a 6-1 vote, with Roehl voting against it, due to loss of prairie land.
The resolution included two parking lots and related site improvements as approved by the master plan, as well as awarding the related bid package for $1.5 million.
• Approved a resolution that allows the city council to impose a lodging tax as authorized last session by the Minnesota State Legislature.
This does not obligate the council to impose the lodging tax, it only reserves them the right to do so, explained Danette Parr, the city’s economic development manager. The resolution passed in a 4-3 vote with McGregor, Prom and Roehl voting against the motion.
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