The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 29, 2012

Commissioners eye parks master plan, ‘de-malling’

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid city commissioners who have not heard full details of the parks master plan got an earful Monday night during their study session.

Commissioners used the entire hour-and-a-half study session to hear about the plan. (The full presentation is available HERE.) Commissioners Mike Stuber, Ron Janzen and Tammy Wilson served as a committee representing the commission during the development of the plan, but the four remaining commissioners, Lewis Blackburn, Drew Ritchie, Todd Ging and Mayor Bill Shewey, had not heard the full details of the plan until Monday. Ging was absent from Monday’s meeting.

City Manager Eric Benson emphasized all details are preliminary and are based on a recreation survey conducted by architecture firm Howell and Vancuren that was randomly sent to 5,000 Enid residents. There were about 420 responses, representing 8 percent of the total surveys sent out, enough to make a judgment on the feelings of the public, said Joe Howell, of Howell and Vancuren.

The plan as designed would cost about $50 million, and officials would raise $30 million of the total through a continuance of the bond issue passed five years ago for bridge work, set to expire in the spring. Assistant City Planner Whitney Box said the other $20 million would come from a five-year sales tax increase, which would raise Enid’s sales tax from 8.35 percent to 8.85 percent.

The plan would be built in phases and would include improvements to all neighborhood parks and construction of a new community park at 30th and Randolph.

The eastside community park would include an outdoor water park with a number of water features, including a lazy river and large swimming pool. The swimming pool would replace the deteriorating Champlin Pool. New ball fields also will be part of the community park, while the number of soccer fields and softball fields will be determined by community demand. The park also will include new youth football fields, parking, tennis courts and a skate park. The new football fields would replace the current fields in Government Springs South.

An indoor community center at the new park would include basketball courts, a multipurpose center and a gymnasium. A proposed indoor fitness center will not be the same type of center as Denny Price Family YMCA, and will not compete against it, Benson said.

City of Enid’s master walking trail plan would be incorporated into the parks plan and eventually extend to all city parks and downtown. Janzen said the results of the recreation survey showed support for neighborhood parks, and he said he felt the commission should focus as much on those parks as on the new community park.

The plan would include upgrading neighborhood parks and construction of two new parks in areas of Enid that are not adequately serviced by neighborhood parks. It would make major renovations to Government Springs and Meadowake.

At the November commission meeting, Benson said he would ask commissioners for their ideas and get comments on the park. At the December meeting, Benson said he would ask commissioners to decide if they wanted to proceed with the plan.

The urgency arises because the Oklahoma State Election Board must be notified 60 days in advance of any election. Benson said they would like to have the bond and sales tax votes on the regular city election ballot in February.

In other business, commissioners held a public hearing on the Tax Increment Finance district agreement for the Oakwood Mall “de-malling” project. Nate Ellis, public finance attorney from Oklahoma City, said the redevelopment of the mall would be a $35 million project, and revenue projections show about $33 million in total revenue from sales each year after the project is complete.

The project would turn the mall into an outdoor regional shopping center and boost its taxable valuation. The plan calls for construction of new buildings on the front side of the mall property and moving current tenants into them. The mall structure itself will be destroyed, except for anchor stores Dillard’s, JCPenney and Sears, which will be maintained and new facades built.

The TIF note for $5.25 million would be promised by the city to help with construction. The current value of the mall is about $20 million. Ellis said the renovation would increase its value and bring in new businesses.

A TIF district establishes an area in which increased ad valorem taxes will be delayed for a specific period of time. The funds would be used to defray the costs of project development. Tax-receiving agencies continue to receive taxes at the current ad valorem rate until expiration of the TIF, at which point ad valorem taxes are paid out based on project improvements.

Dave Jones, owner of Beds Unlimited, told commissioners small, independent retailers at the mall have not been contacted by developers. He said he approved of the project, but wanted to know what would happen to his business and whether he would remain in the mall. Benson said he has spoken with Jim Dill, of Vector Properties, and would pass along Jones’ comments as well.

Commissioners also greeted a team of Russian officials visiting Enid as part of the World Neighbors program, of which the Sister Cities program is an affiliate.