COLUMBIA — A proposal to spend nearly $700,000 on parkland near Battle High School was presented to City Council and will be up for a final vote on Dec. 5.
The proposal calls for paying $681,280 to St. Charles Road Development LLC, according to a report to the council from Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood. The proposed amount includes $21,000 per acre for the 30.18-acre tract, plus $47,500 to cover half the cost of extending a sewer line to the property.
The purchase price comes from an independent third-party appraiser. The amount falls between an appraisal of $14,600 per acre that was done for the city and a price of $29,670 per acre suggested by an appraiser for the owner.
If the council approves, the purchase wouldn't be final until July.
Battle High School is expected to open in northeast Columbia in 2013 and be followed by an elementary school in 2015. Development of the park, however, doesn't have a definitive timetable.
Hood described the process as one that begins with prior planning in the long-range master plan.
"The master plan identifies needs for the area, such as land and facilities," Hood said. This northeast area was identified as one that needed more parkland in the 2002 master plan.
"Next, the land has to actually be acquired, which can take up to three years. A plan has to then be created so funds and resources can then be developed and found," Hood said.
The money for the project will come from proceeds of a parks sales tax that was approved by voters in 2005, according to Hood's report.
The council in January 2008 directed staff to begin talks about developing a park in conjunction with the new high school.
Hood said that, because of other commitments to the city promised in a 2010 parks ballot issue, the planning and development stage on the new park won't happen for another four to six years. Parks are built in phases, depending on factors such as park use and need, which could cause the process to take upward of 20 years.
Until the park is developed, it will be maintained as green space.
Robert Wolverton, who works with St. Charles Road Development LLC, said the deal is reasonable for both parties.
"The price includes all utility, planning and zoning costs," Wolverton said.
He thinks there is a good chance the city will go ahead and sign the contract because the city has had a longstanding policy of trying to develop parks near schools. Wolverton referenced Cosmo-Bethel Park, which is near both Gentry Middle School and Rock Bridge High School, as a prime example.
The new park would be comparable in size to the 40-acre Cosmo-Bethel, to the 30-acre Jay Dix Station on Scott Boulevard and to the 27-acre Fairview Park, which is near Fairview Elementary School.
Jonathan Sessions, a member of both the Columbia Board of Education and the city's Comprehensive Plan Task Force, said he supports any new green public space that will improve "quality of life."
He believes that northeast Columbia is one of the more opportune and underdeveloped areas of the city.
"As Columbia continues to grow, we keep hitting many physical boundaries," Sessions said. "I expect to see the area around Battle High School to grow like a sped-up version of what has happened for the past 40 years around the Rock Bridge area."
He is happy to see Parks and Recreation planning ahead long range for the area.
"Look for a lot of future development there, both commercial and residential," Sessions said.
Hood expects the park to provide obvious benefits.
"The park will bring a new sense of community there," Hood said. "In addition to being a recreational area, it will be a place of wellness. People can go and get reacquainted with the outdoors."