Two years from now, Queen Creek residents could be playing on new ballfields and picnicking alongside a lake right in the heart of the community.
At their Nov. 16 regular meeting, members of the Queen Creek Town Council voted 6-0 to approve a conceptual design master plan for proposed $18.58 million West Park.
Voting in favor of the design were Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant and council members Robin Benning, Jeff Brown, Emilena Turley and Julia Wheatley. Councilman Craig Barnes was not present.
The proposed park will use about 44 acres of a 76-acre site that is part of the town’s Parks and Recreation Five-Park Master Plan. Thirty of those acres will be used for recreation amenities that can be financed by impact fees.
The larger site is generally bounded by Queen Creek Road to the north, Ocotillo Road to the south, Sossaman Road to the west and Hawes Road to the east, according to the town’s website: www.queencreek.org.
“This is the best of the best, I think, of all of those designs and everything put together,” Vice Mayor Oliphant said about the design plan during a live stream of the meeting. “I’ve been hearing from the adult residents who are excited about the fields for them…so thanks again for all your hard work. …They really feel like this is their park.”
Meetings may be viewed live online at http://www.queencreek.org/town-hall/town-council/watch-town-council-meetings. Archived meeting videos are also online.
The construction timeline has design detail, engineering and pre-construction taking place through August. Park construction should begin in September and continue through fall 2018, when the park is expected to open, according to a presentation by Adam Robinson, the town’s recreation superintendent.
On Sept. 21, the council voted in favor of returning an earlier proposed conceptual plan to the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for further study to include more open space and parking.
“I’d rather do it right the first time than look at something and say, ‘oh now we’re going to do something on the other side and we should have done it a little bit different (in the first place),’” Councilman Barnes said at the Sept. 21 meeting.
The design includes lighted youth baseball/softball fields (including a full-size field for older players), a lighted multi-purpose field that can be used for soccer, a lake, football and other sports, a playground, splash pad, walking paths with fitness pods and restrooms and concessions. A skate and BMX park is adjacent to the promenade where it is visible to law enforcement patrolling the area and easily accessible from the parking lots.
The main entrance will be from Sossaman Road.
The design and its revision were created by Phoenix-based Sherman Design Studios.
The revision also features a passive play area that is not programmed for a specific use and additional open space where ball teams can warm up without hindering game play on the adjoining fields, Mr. Robinson said.
“When games transition to the next game, there are eight teams worth of kids waiting to warm up. …They can go outside the space, still within the complex, to warm up, pitch and catch,” he said.
Councilman Brown asked Mr. Robinson how many parking spaces were planned and how PRAC determined that number.
The new park will have about 400 parking spaces, Mr. Robinson said. That number is about 40-50 more spaces than Desert Mountain Park, 22201 S. Hawes Road, which is very similar to the West Park design in terms of sports fields and play space, he said. Sports fields drive the amount of traffic and parking at Desert Mountain Park, he said.
Councilman Brown inquired about the amount of spaces proposed near the splash pad and play areas.
Mr. Robinson estimated parking was located about 150 feet from the splash pad and that a drop-off area would be built nearby.
“I appreciate that drop-off. That’s one of the concerns that residents have. And I think it differs from some of the active sports fields in that the users at a splash pad often are the younger crowd and a parent, often times just one parent bringing two or three kids and, like I say, since they are smaller they require more gear plus multiple hands to hold at the same time,” Councilman Brown said.
Construction would be funded through impact fees designed specifically for parks. In 2012, state legislation restricted the use of impact fees for new parks to 30 acres and eliminated the use of impact fees to fund recreational centers larger than 3,000 square feet, aquatic centers and community pools, among other amenities, according to the town’s website.
The additional parking and amenities increased the estimated project cost to $18.58 million from $17 million. Of that, $12.95 million for park improvements, excluding the splash pad, would be paid for by impact fees received after Aug. 1, 2014, according to Mr. Robinson’s presentation at the meeting.
An additional $450,000 for a splash pad would be paid for with park impact fees received before Aug. 1, 2014.
The $2.74 million estimated for streets would be paid for by street impact fees and a 2 percent dedicated construction sales tax. The $2.44 million estimated to construct the water and wastewater infrastructure would be paid for using water and wastewater capacity fees or savings from the water and wastewater fund.
Councilwoman Turley said she approved of the project but added she struggled when considering whether to approve the funding at this time.
“This is exciting. The lakes are beautiful. I love how we’re using impact fees for lakes and different water capacity. It’s great. My one dilemma and I’ve discussed this staff is just we don’t yet know how this is ultimately going to impact the outcome of our end game of the impact fees. From the impact fee perspective, what will be left for the rest of the parks we have to build over the next two years?” Councilwoman Turley said.
She said staff would not have that information for another nine months, until the parks master plan is done.
“… I wish I had all the data today. I don’t like making the decision today without everything,” Councilwoman Turley.
Councilwoman Wheatley addressed some of Councilwoman Turley’s concerns.
“We have 10 years before (the impact fees) basically expire and we have to use them,” Councilwoman Wheatley said. “…We’ve collected these funds and promised to build this park.”
She said the additional fees that will be collected as the town grows should be enough to fund park facilities on the remaining acreage of the 76-acre site.
For more information and to view Mr. Robinson’s presentation, click on the Calendar drop-down on the town’s website and click on the Nov. 15 council meeting listing.