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Hays Commissioners clean out backlog of parks projects

Thursday, May 15, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

Hays County Commissioner’s Court approved two park projects this week, finishing one phase of the park bond allotment, and completing all the parks, which were in the pipeline before the moratorium on new projects was imposed earlier this year. The only park not to receive funding thus far is the enormous Dahlstrom Ranch project, which is still in its development stages.


On Tuesday, the as-yet-unnamed regional park in Kyle was allocated $2.4 million and the Buda Stagecoach Park was given $775,000.


The North East Kyle Regional Park is located at the intersection of Dacy Lane and Bebee Road and borders those two thoroughfares as well as Chapa Middle School. The 42.68-acre park is composed of three different tracts. The Citizen’s Park Advisory Team gave it a score of 105 and a 9-1 vote to send the project to commissioner’s court.


The centerpiece for the park will be a $26 million Recreation Center. Other amenities in the project include a 2,400 square-foot covered pavilion; a 1,500-seat amphitheatre; 18-hole disc golf course; 29 tennis courts; a modular skateboard park; football/soccer field with lights and bleachers; and two youth baseball fields with lights, bleachers and scoreboards. Those and additional amenities will cost another $2.877 million.


Land acquisition and the initial phases of the planning and design cost bring the total cost to an estimated $31,115,180. If everything goes according to plan, the project should be finished at the beginning of 2013, said Kerry Urbanowicz, director of Hays County Commissioner’s Court approved two park projects this week.


The City of Kyle will hold a bond election in 2009 to fund the recreation center. Urbanowicz said that projections indicate the northeastern portion of the county will hold 40 percent of the population within eight years. The location of the park, between Neiderwald, Kyle and Buda makes for ideal accessibility to communities, Urbanowicz told the court. He said the money from Hays County would pay for the outdoor amenities


Judge Liz Sumter noted that the project would not be using Hays County funds until 2010, and expressed some concern that the project may stall if the bond election fails. Commissioner Pct. 4 Karen Ford also expressed concerns, “I’m having a little heartburn over the $2.4 million at the moment in terms of the outlook and this being a big project that will take years to complete…” She suggested $1 million might be more appropriate to start off with. “I don’t see the ISDs participating. I don’t see where developer funds are supporting this either.”


Judge Sumter said that the school taxes are already high enough and that the lack of support from school districts were not important to her. She did indicate that “developer funds would be good.” Sumter cited the lengthy timeline of the project amongst her concerns, “it’s just so far away and most of our contracts we have a two year timeline to actually expend the funds, and I guess I have a much tighter vision as to how we should expend the funds.”


Urbanowicz noted that developer fees of $500 per lot had allowed for the purchase of 13.5 acres comprising tract one of the project. Tract one is currently the only portion of the park in the city limits, while the other two are in Kyle’s ETJ, due to be annexed once the deeding process, now underway, is complete.


Pct. 3 Commissioner Jeff Barton said the timeline was a positive element in his eyes, enabling the project to move forward while still withholding funds for several more years, allowing the county to conceive other uses for the interest. Saying the unnamed park “is so well targeted toward the needs of the community,” he noted that the county’s commitment would be in line with the $28,506,180 the city of Kyle was investing. Urbanowicz also pointed out that the park “contains some 70 percent of the county’s and city’s identified needs,” and that it would be free to all residents of the county.


Sumter asked that an interlocal agreement with Kyle be drawn up that could include any savings on the project be funneled back to Hays County. Pct. 2 Commissioner Will Conley agreed with Barton and rebuked the judge, “I don’t think it’s fair to the citizens of Kyle to carry all of that burden themselves. [Kyle is] asking for that amount and I think it’s our fair share. And if any extra money comes in, that burden should be taken off of that $25 million.” Sumter indicated that the savings, should they exist, may come off the outdoor amenities Hays County is contributing.  Although such a specific interlocal agreement was not stipulated, in the end only Ford remained in opposition to the project’s funding.


Buda’s Historic Stagecoach Park had a much easier passage. Danny Zincke, Parks Director for the City of Buda, presented a park with a lower overall cost at $2.5 million and a higher average CPAT score at 121.9. The 53-acre park is located in the heart of downtown Buda and is connected to City Park and Bradfield Park, which will provide the city center with 90 acres of parkland, expanding to 130 acres once City Park is fully developed.


Stagecoach Park is bordered by Onion Creek to the north and Johnson Creek to the east. It includes the namesake stagecoach house that was built in the mid-1870s and a post office from the same era. The Texas Historical Commission has designated the land as a historic landmark.


The park will offer trails, a pavilion, playground, amphitheater, pond, campgrounds and a “council ring” for Boy Scouts. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has contributed $500,000, the LCRA $150,000, and the City of Buda has spent $500,000 to purchase the land. The previous park election bond in Hays County had raised $300,000 to purchase the land. Zincke said he hoped the park’s amenities could be completed by October.

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