By Plano Citizens' Coalition
On October 8, the Plano City Council will consider the Parks and Recreation Master Plan which was recently advanced by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The plan contains numerous proposals for new projects and additions to existing parks, some of which will undoubtedly require massive, multi-million dollar expenditures. Due to the excessive nature of the ideas contained within the plan and the likelihood that it will result in budgetary strains, the City Council should table the plan and instruct the City Staff to reevaluate the Parks and Recreation Master Plan on a “wants vs needs” basis.
The two largest projects are a proposed deck park that would be constructed over the Dallas North Tollway in West Plano and a pedestrian bridge to connect the Downtown and Collin Creek Mall areas that would be built above US75. The deck park would be similar to Klyde Warren Park, which cost roughly $115 Million.
The Parks and Recreation Master Plan anticipates that Collin Creek Mall will be redeveloped in the near future, and thus uses this as a justification for interconnection between the two sides of US 75. The plan notes that this project would be similar to the Continental Avenue Bridge in Dallas, which began as a large, six lane wide roadway bridge.
The plan did not provide any estimation as to what the cost of these two large projects would be. However, given the magnitude as conceptualized in the above images, it is certain that new bonds would have to be approved by the Plano electorate. As neither of these lavish projects fit the description of "usual and customary parks", why should the City (that's you and me) pay for it? Shouldn't the developers, whose nearby projects will be enhanced by these expenditures foot the bill? Once again, the city is picking winners and losers, instead of letting the free market compete. Proposals for new parks throughout the city were also present within the plan; notably, such “opportunities” are located in West Plano in the vicinity of the Legacy area, the Downtown area, and along the George Bush Turnpike on the southeast edge of Plano. Currently, these regions are exempt from a requirement in which developers must pay a fee to be used in the acquisition and construction of new parks. The need for these new parks is attributable to the recent addition of numerous multifamily units. Parks constructed without contribution through the developers’ fee will come at a higher cost to the taxpayers throughout the city.
As previously mentioned in past news stories, the City of Plano has also expressed an interest in unearthing the creek which presently flows underneath the Collin Creek Mall parking lot. This is thought to require roughly $50 Million. The re-exposed creek would also be landscaped and utilized in the form of open space adjacent to a redeveloped Collin Creek Mall. Again, unless the City has a plan for recouping the cost through sale of the creek, let the developer pay for this enhancement to its adjacent property instead of the taxpayer.
If this plan is approved, key aspects will eventually be included in the Community Investment Program Budget. The CIP Budget is a five year plan meant to address the City’s infrastructure. Included within the CIP, is anticipated spending on parks and recreation. Most of the revenue in the CIP budget comes from bonds that were approved by voters. With this in mind, the proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan Would almost certainly have a large impact on the CIP Budget. This means that the Interest and Sinking tax rate (a portion of the overall city property tax rate) which funds the debt service could potentially rise if enough new bonds are approved, thus contributing to the continuing trend of residents having to pay higher property taxes. It is difficult to ascertain the potential for tax increases without any cost estimations from the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
The City Council should table this plan in its current form so that it can be revised to prioritize the needs of existing parks and amenities, both in their ongoing upkeep, as well as their repair. Rather than just listing ideas for new projects, a transparent effort must be made to inform the public of the practical impact the plan would have on the CIP Budget and ultimately on the property tax rates to which residents are subject. A carefully formulated plan must also take into account how projects will continue to be paid for upon implementation. Developers must be expected to contribute when applicable as they have done so in the past. Lastly, City Leadership must keep in mind that the issuance of debt should be a tool to ensure that infrastructure can be adequately provided at the present time of need, and it should not be squandered for the sake of vanity or a desire to earn awards for projects that benefit only small segments of taxpayers.
Speak or Register in Opposition at Monday's Council Meeting
Call the City Secretary's Office at (972) 941-7120 to have a speaker card filled out or register your opinion on Item No.4, Consideration of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Contact the City Council
Angela Miner: email@example.com
Anthony Ricciardelli: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Grady: email@example.com
Kayci Prince: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ron Kelley: email@example.com
Mayor LaRosiliere: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Harrison: email@example.com
Rick Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org