Archive for Thursday, November 3, 2005

Council goes to work on park

November 3, 2005

The $29.6 million price tag for the proposed community park for Lansing is just a starting point, the senior planner working on the project said.

Shannon Gordon, senior engineer with J.L. Bruce & Co., the architectural firm hired to develop a master plan for the 128-acre park near Gilman Road and 155th Street, said the purpose of the exercise was to be all-inclusive.

"Keep in mind that when you're doing a master plan, it's just that: It's a master plan," Gordon told council members during a study session Oct. 27. "It's our ability to put down as much information as we can about the site, about the wants and needs of the community and try to put a rough order of magnitude to each thing.

"But everything there could go up or down depending on a series of questions and answers that happen at a later date. This is just the first run-through, trying not to forget anything," Gordon said.

To be sure, the plan - which is still in draft form - is full of amenities: a football field, three soccer fields, a baseball field, three softball fields, an amphitheater, a pavilion, sheltered picnic areas, ponds, walking trails and a state-of-the-art aquatic center featuring a "lazy river" where visitors ride along on floatable devices, water slides and a 1,000-gallon bucket that fills with water before dumping itself on anticipating children.

City Administrator Mike Smith, who met with Gordon on Wednesday, Nov. 2, said he wanted the council to take some time to reflect before making any firm decisions on the plan. He'll ask council members to further discuss the plans at a goal-setting session scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19.

"I've slowed it down," Smith said. "It was going a little too fast for my comfort level."

Mayor Kenneth Bernard offered his assessment of what's taken place and what the council faces before the park becomes a reality.

"So in simple terms, you've designed the Taj Mahal, and now we start to get real," Bernard said.

Gordon told the mayor and council he envisioned the Lansing master plan as a 20-year plan and that the total cost ultimately would depend on the council's choices.

"We did a mid- to high-range on everything," Gordon said about the projected $29.6 million cost. "Yeah, it might be a little shocking to look at that number initially, but what everyone needs to know is that's the practical point. It's important to design what is the best design that the community wants to see happen."

The plan was developed by JLB after a series of community meetings this summer, and Gordon included the most popularly requested features in the park.

Bernard wondered aloud whether the city would be able to afford everything the public is seeking.

"The issue still becomes overall costs, and you've got to take a look at that," he said. "I'm all in favor of a park, but when you look at $29 million, that's more than the wastewater treatment plant, the Main Street improvement and East Eisenhower."

Council member Andi Pawlowski reminded Bernard that Gordon's presentation was not etched in stone.

"I think the thought behind this was we were going to plan a park with everything we could possibly think of that we would want and then we'd get real," Pawlowski said.

"OK, we planned the park with everything," Bernard answered. "When do we get real about it?"

Gordon said council members should get ready to "roll up their sleeves" this winter to get real. The next phase, once he delivers the master plan later this month, gets into detailed design and development, "where we say things like, 'Do we need really this? Or do we really need this?'

"It's impossible to master plan from the back in," Gordon said. "You've got to start with the logical process. Where we are in the process is: This is what it would be if we were to build it out to its maximum over the next 20 years. Now our next step is to say, OK what's most important? What do we see happening first? Then we work our way through. This is our map to how we develop this."

Council members concluded the first necessary step would be grading the 128 acres, which Gordon estimated would cost nearly $4 million.

"This may seem pretty astronomical," he conceded. "The thought here is we can go out there, rough grade the site as a phase, drop seeding on it and use it as flexibly as necessary for everything that you need to do out there without any new development. That's a really good first start. This is a large chunk, but it's something that you're going to have to do regardless."

Council member Dave Trinkle Jr. reminded his colleagues not everything had to be built at once.

"What I'm saying is if it's going to be two years before we could do anything extravagant out there - one of the big facilities -we could maybe work towards getting the roads in," he said, "something where it could be just a basic park, utilitize the ground to start with, then go by section."

In addition to planning the park, the council also ultimately will determine how much to spend and how to raise the money for the park. Bernard suggested one possible way would be by issuing general obligation bonds as sections of the park are completed.

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