At the January 26th Leon County Commission meeting, Commissioners voted unanimously to support the relocation of the proposed Northeast Park. The park was originally slated to be built on the existing County-owned land at the intersection of Thomasville and Proctor Roads. However, issues related to prescribe burning in the area has raised concerns about the location.
Newly elected District 4 Commissioner Brian Welch made the motion for the new location and said that this was his “priority project” and that this is “a big win.”
During his successful campaign for District 4, Welch criticized Desloge for the lack of progress on building the park which was first proposed in 2007.
The new location is a site between Centerville Road and the planned Welaunee Boulevard, adjacent to Montford Middle and Roberts Elementary Schools.
Funding for the Northeast Park project was in the County’s five-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in 2007, however the 2008 recession caused a significant decline in projected revenues and to avoid a property tax increase the Board implemented a 120-day freeze on capital projects.
Subsequently, the Northeast Park project, as well as many other capital projects, was not funded in FY 2008.
At the September 19th 2017 Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency (IA) Board meeting, the IA Board prioritized the 10 Community Enhancement Districts, Connectivity, and Quality of Life projects (CCQ). Officials requested Blueprint staff to develop options for the IA Board to consider advance funding and implementation of the Fairgrounds and Northeast Park projects.
An agenda item was presented to the IA Board at its December 11, 2019 providing options to advance fund both projects; the IA Board accepted the report and took no additional action at that time.
Subsequently, at the July 9, 2020 Budget Workshop, the Board directed staff to fund the Fairgrounds project in the five-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The Northeast Park’s funding is currently programmed for FY 2035.
Most recently, in February 2020, the property owner’s adjacent to the Proctor Road parcel reached out to the County to discuss possibly purchasing the property.
Horseshoe Plantation, working with Tall Timbers, owns and manages thousands of acres in the surrounding area of the Proctor Road site and regularly perform prescribed burns on their property which can cause air quality issues when the burning is occurring. They expressed concern in trying to conduct these burns adjacent to a park facility.
At the December 10, 2020 Blueprint IA meeting, newly elected Commissioner Welch discussed the possible new site for the Northeast Park and requested the Board consider accelerating the funding of the Northeast Park project to align with the Northeast Gateway Project. That agenda item is scheduled to be presented at the February 18, 2021 IA Board meeting.
The Fiscal Impact
To accomplish the relocation with no net cost to the County, the County recommends selling the County-owned site and utilizing the proceeds of the sale to purchase the new site. The property owners adjacent to the County-owned land at Proctor Road have expressed an interest in acquiring this parcel.
The owners of the property adjacent to Montford Middle and Roberts Elementary Schools have indicated their willingness to sell a parcel to the County for the development of a park. Based on preliminary discussions with all parties, it is anticipated that there will be no net cost to the County to acquire the new parcel.
The Park Amenities
As reflected in the original project description, the Northeast Park would be designed to include active recreation amenities. Northeast Park amenities may include baseball and multi-purpose fields, a playground, and concession/restroom facilities.
While the original location is 100 acres, given the environmental features of the location, approximately half was anticipated to be used for active recreation with the balance set aside for passive uses. The proposed new location is estimated to be 50 acres and would be designed to include the active recreation component of the Northeast Park project.
The Northeast Park design and amenities are to take into consideration a future community engagement process.
The New Site is Closer to More People
The proposed alternative site is located just south of Montford Middle and Roberts Elementary Schools and would be bounded by Centerville Road and the future Welaunee Boulevard extension. County officials note that locating the Northeast Park at the proposed site would allow the project to be designed in conjunction with the Welaunee Boulevard extension portion of the Northeast Gateway project in a holistic manner.
The new location will be accessible by a larger number of Leon County families. As shown in Table 1 below, an analysis by County staff was done of the population served at 1, 3, and 5-mile increments.
Approximately 22,518 more individuals live within a 5-mile radius of the alternative site than the current location. Although the alternative site is located within the City limits, more residents of unincorporated Leon County will also benefit from the relocation of the Northeast Park.
In addition to the increased population served, the alternative site’s proximity to two Leon County Schools provides possible future benefits. These opportunities include the potential for partnerships for joint usage of recreational amenities, stormwater facilities, parking and traffic circulation.
There may also be an opportunity to partner with the City on the Northeast Park itself. In addition to the County’s Northeast Park project, the City has also had previous discussions regarding the development of a City park in the Northeast. The City has not finalized plans for the creation or the operation of the City’s park.
I just read an article about this on WCTV and it stated that the Park WAS going to cost $10 MILLION DOLLARS……. WTH? $10 MILLION DOLLARS for a PARK?
While Commissioner Welch and the other commissioners celebrate his “big win” with a new park, our streets are in disrepair and our crime rate continues to soar. It would be prudent for our commission to prioritize the needs of the entire county and spend our tax dollars more intelligently.
Here are some things to consider:
1. The article says, “Welch criticized Desloge for the lack of progress on building the park. Welch ended up winning the election.” That doesn’t say that we the people want the park, that says Brian Welch wants the park. More input needed here – why are we so in need of this park? We haven’t had that much population growth in the NE.
2. If the park is built closer in to where people live – that is a convenience for some. From past experience I can tell you it brings more noise, more traffic, and lighted fields at night – which local residents never like. We had a park built in our community in south FL and the local residents fought the lights – so we were never able to have evening games. So perhaps, having the park a little more remote would be good.
3. So let’s look at the big picture, I-10 is going to have a new exit/entrance in the NE area, the Welanee project’s terminus will be at Centerville and Roberts Road, and you want a park? So who wants the extra noise, traffic, people, etc.? Is this park truly a NEED? If we don’t set this in motion now will we be having a problem in 10 years? Be careful what you wish for – it can affect property values and quality of life – and once built there is no going back.
I just hope there is not a wink and a nob about future development at the Proctor Road property.
Otherwise shifting the location makes sense to me, the existing site is nothing to brag about not to mention poorly located.
Edward Lyle: you are so right! The ever presence of unknown investors hiding behind LLCs in city and county questionable projects is disturbing. But, sadly, don’t expect an investigative article from TR. Readers certainly understand the legal implications behind LLCs but we want to know who is supporting concerning projects and possibly pulling strings behind the scene at City and County levels.
It will be on Welaunee Property
Did the article say it’s programmed for 2035? That means my newly born grandson will be able to drive there for the opening….
Why don’t you tell us who the property owners are and what their relationship may or may not be to the buyers. I smell a rat…
Whenever a government agency says there will be no net cost….they’re lying.
They are gonna sell a hundred acres next to Tall Timbers to get 50 next to Welaunee?
Somebody is making out like a bandit at the taxpayers expense.
CIP, IA, CCQ……. DAAAMN, too many organizations. Could THIS be the reason nothing gets done in a timely manor? Stop creating these organizations to delegate YOUR jobs to.
Waited all these years and now its moving away sadly!
“The owners of the property adjacent to Montford Middle and Roberts Elementary Schools have indicated their willingness to sell a parcel to the County for the development of a park.”
… and just who might be these “owners” willing to sell their property to Leon County taxpayers?… or are we dealing with the ever-popular non-disclosure LLC route?
There is no such thing in government as zero cost. Someone is making money off this somehow.