Potential pocket park deemed more burdensome than beneficial officials sayMay 29, 2022 01:36PM ● By Travis Barton
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Elected officials passed on a chance to purchase and maintain a park along Murray Holladay Road at 2394 East during a study meeting in May. Officials felt the public benefit did not outweigh the burden on the city to maintain the park.
The property in question, which has a white bungalow near the road and is 1.7 acres in size, was approved for a six-lot single family residential subdivision in January. The Hulton[LL1] [EW2] Park subdivision includes open space planned as a park for the development. However the applicant, Ron Hilton, proposed to city officials they purchase the park section of the property to develop and maintain as they see fit.
The park portion of the development would be a third of an acre dedicated for public use rather than solely for owners in the subdivision.
Community Development Director Jonathan Teerlink noted it might be “the first time” they’ve had a developer propose such a use for the public as well.
In a letter addressed to the city from Hilton on May 2, he wrote the park would be close to Holladay Village in the center of the city, “enhancing the multi-use walkable environment there with the many new townhomes and condos that are going in, as well as serving all other pedestrians who visit and patronize the Holladay Village.”
The conditions laid out in the letter include passing ownership of the park and roads to the city, the city waiving certain bonding requirements, allowing Hilton to remain in his existing home on the property until his new home is built as part of the subdivision and sell part of the park to the city for $430,000.
“We believe it to be a generous offer, well below the market value of the land, and providing a great enhancement to our community,” Hilton wrote.
But city officials felt a third-acre park, about the same size as Olympus Pines or Butternut parks, with limited capacity for amenities did not carry significant enough value to stretch their resources thinner to maintain a pocket park.
City attorney Todd Godfrey said in his experience seeing other cities do similar projects, they don’t go well.
“Maintenance of these is difficult and the cost and burden doesn’t usually justify what public benefit comes from the properties,” he told the council during its May 5 meeting.
He noted over the last 10-12 years he’s seen very few cities taking on pocket parks because of the maintenance burden.
“I’m not sure there’s public benefit with your tiny staff you have to maintain the property you do have, every neighborhood is looking for green space and they want you to mow it and water it,” Godfrey said. “I have a hard time seeing enough utility for the city to make it worthwhile.”
Mayor Rob Dahle said he might feel different if it was larger and they could place a significant amenity like they did with the skate park. A bigger area could allow them to do a dog park or pickleball courts.
The plan for Hilton was to add additional space to the park element if the city decided to purchase the land, without the city’s interest, Hilton indicated they would keep the park element smaller and build a seventh house on that land.