The Plymouth City Council weighed the option of a voter-approved referendum for the potential expansion of the Plymouth Creek Center, but the proposal lacked majority support.
Members of the council cited several factors as to why the city shouldn’t proceed with a referendum on the estimated $50 million expansion, including a delay in construction, low voter turnout for a special election and additional costs that would be accrued.
City Manager Dave Callister presented a schedule for both options showing a special election in November would delay construction for the project from a fall 2020 beginning to the spring of 2021. The project would also cost an additional $40,000 for holding a special election and due to the cost of inflation for delaying the project.
Mayor Jeff Wosje said he was not in favor of a referendum since the project would most likely pass, therefore only adding more costs associated with the project. He also noted special elections typically have a low voter turnout, attracting only those voters who are passionate about the issue.
“Also, I feel like we’re elected for a reason,” Wosje said, noting voters have charged council members with making such decisions.
Councilmember Ned Carroll pointed out the “considerable amount” of money the city has already spent on garnering public feedback regarding the project.
“People have told me again and again this is what they want,” said Carroll, who noted the importance of being public-minded even when an amenity won’t be used or desired by everyone. See results of the recent FlashVote below.
Councilmember Jim Willis was in support of a referendum and suggested waiting until the 2020 presidential election for greater voter turnout.
He also pointed out that the council hasn’t agreed on the schematic design plan – scheduled to come to the council for review in September – which could ultimately delay the process.
“We need to be cautious when we spend that kind of money,” said Willis, noting a referendum would give the council a level of confidence that it’s doing the right thing.
It was pointed out that waiting until 2020 would delay the project even more so and add inflationary costs to the project, which is currently estimated to cost $50 million. Councilmember Nick Roehl, who has expressed opposition to spending $50 million on the project, said he would also support a referendum during the presidential election.
Councilmembers Alise McGregor, Jim Prom and Jim Davis, in addition to Wosje and Carroll, were not in support of a referendum.
Prom said he wanted the city to prioritize the necessities rather than the “niceties,” such as the Plymouth Creek Center.
McGregor, who also expressed concern with the $50 million price tag, said she likes the plans she has seen thus far.
“We need to be mindful of our spending, but I don’t think a referendum would be helpful,” she said.
Once the council receives the schematic design in early September, it will also have a more definitive estimate of the project costs and its impact on taxpayers.
Additional revenue streams could help with the project, including state bonding – which has been requested from the Legislature – and revenue from a 3% lodging tax, which the council will discuss implementing at its study session Tuesday, Aug. 13. During the last session, the Legislature authorized municipalities to impose up to a 3% lodging tax for 10 years in which two-thirds of the revenues must be used for capital improvements to public recreational facilities.
Prior to the July 23 regular council meeting, the members met with the architectural firm HGA to review the progress of the schematic design process that would expand the community center’s footprint from 29,000 square feet to 111,000 square feet.
Proposed amenities would include two gymnasiums, a year-round indoor walking track, an indoor playground, dedicated senior/adult spaces, fitness rooms, a redesigned ballroom, a black box theater and more.
The tax impact to homeowners of a home valued at between $300,000 and $500,000 would range from $78 to $135 in additional taxes per year.
Results of the recent FlashVote, which included 1,145 participants, showed 54% of respondents felt the expansion and renovation was either very or extremely important. An additional 21% responded it was moderately important.
Those who responded that it was slightly or not at all important totaled 23%.
A year-round indoor walking track, indoor playground, and fitness and wellness spaces were among the top three amenities respondents favored.
When asked about the increase to property taxes, nearly 60% of respondents strongly (36.6%) or somewhat (22.8%) approved. The percentage of respondents who either strongly or somewhat disapproved was 27.6% while 12% were neutral. The tax impact was listed at about $49 per year for a $200,000 home value, $78 per year for a home valued at $300,000, $108 per year for a house at $400,000, $135 per year for a home valued at $500,000 and $169 per year for a $600,000 house.
Follow the Sun Sailor on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunsailor.