District of Clearwater will now be accepting cash-in-lieu of park dedication for the purpose of processing development files.
The decision made during the Nov. 15 council meeting will help staff outline the approach to uniformly respond to park land and trail acquisition during the development application process.
Staff said there are currently numerous subdivision files under review and the decision would help them provide the preliminary layout report to those applicants. With green spaces there is a requirement to consider the official community plan (OCP), which shows the location of present and proposed parks, when large properties are being subdivided.
While the OCP is not a trails plan, it does include high level trails along public roads where the district has jurisdiction.
The OCP policy also states that unless a subdivision is located on land set aside for parks, the developer should provide cash-in-lieu of park dedication.
Staff recommended they work with the Trails Task Force to develop and present to council recommendations for a process by which the district can update the Trails Master Plan.
The Trails Master Plan identifies numerous trails through private property with no specifics on how they would be acquired or ongoing maintenance costs. It also appears that the plan could be aligned better with the District’s OCP(overarching policy).
In the past the district would typically receive land instead of cash. However, Mayor Blackwell noted that most of these park lands are gifted lands as part of the subdivision process and cannot be used for parks.
“Park land is great but it comes with ongoing costs such as hazard tree assessment clean up projects,” said Blackwell, adding, “It has to be maintained under the districts standard for basic safety.”
Coun. Bill Haring suggested the district should opt for cash rather than land.
“We have so much parkland that’s useless people donate the worst part of property that they are subdividing such as rocks or steep hillside. It makes more sense to take cash and maintain the park we already have and then plan green spaces that are intentional and not built on the worst piece of land in a subdivision.”
Coun. Lynne Frizzle also supported Haring’s suggestion.
It was also suggested that the district conduct an assessment of the proposed network of trails in the future. A part of this would be to evaluate the long-term financial viability of the currently proposed trails network not only in terms of the initial capital investments required to construct (which so far has been through external grants) but also through the lens of future ongoing and recurring maintenance cost to the district relative to its tax base carrying capacity.
Funds raised through the cash-in-lieu process can also help offset spillover costs.
District staff will also work with the Trails Task Force to develop and present recommendations for a process by which they can update the plan to include factors such as the number of proposed trails, types of trails, and current construction and long-term maintenance costs associated with the projects.