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.