You can go back and read my excerpts from the first meeting that was held September 24, 2008 here (1st Cloninger Mill Park Meeting) and the second meeting on January 15, 2009 meeting here (2nd Cloninger Mill Park Meeting).
Here are Links to pictures and schematics that were presented at the Master Plan meeting along with my previous Google photo of the property (a couple aren't 100% focused, but you can see the end result):
My Google aerial photo of the property
Black and White Aerial Map
Final Master Plan photos 1 / 2 / 3
Site Analysis (1/15/2009) / Slope analysis / Soil Analysis / Site Photos
I can honestly say that everything that I have seen Site Solutions propose about this park has been A+. They listened to what the people of the neighborhoods had to say and they fully balanced it with what the needs of the community mandate.
Mr. Derek Williams made the presentation during this joint presentation to the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission. He initially gave an overview of what had been discussed during the previous two meetings.
Further comments were that this area had originally been zoned R-1 and R-3, so this park does fall within those guidelines. Summarizing, he stated that Site Solutions took into account all of the buffers set forth in guidelines in dealing with the neighboring areas. He believes that Cloninger Mill Road will be expanded to 4 or 5 lanes in the future. Utilities abound near the property that are adequate for the park and its needs. There is a 12 foot setback along the perimeter of the property adjacent to the residential property, a 40 foot setback along the shores of Lake Hickory, and there is a 110 foot "right of way" associated with Cloninger Mill Road.
The local Neighborhoods didn't want parking on the east side of the park, but that just wasn't feasible. There is a FEMA floodway restriction that restricts development along the creek in the center of the park. Mr. Williams said, at this meeting in the question and answer session, that his personal preference would have been to have one road in and out of the park, but with the creek running down the center of the property it just wasn't feasible without incurring great cost and ecological damage to the property. At this site, what you have is two mountains and a valley between. 80% of the sight consists of slopes of greater than 10%. That is part of what gives the site its unique character. The natural features must be preserved.
There would be no way to give people access to the whole park without the two entrances. Site Solutions reduced the parking on the East side and increased the size of the parking on the West side to 50 spaces to address the neighborhood concerns. There will now be a playground and restrooms next to the West parking lot along with a picnic shelter area. East side parking will now be reduced to 25 spaces, which will also have a grassy area attached for excess overflow parking if needed.
Mr. Williams also stated that there would be a fence placed at the Northeastern Corner of the Park, so that outsiders wouldn't have access to the private boat dock that resides there. The closest building to any neighbors is 450 feet away from neighbors at Old Mill Landing. The closest trail is 150 feet from residential property lines. The plans call for natural buffers to limit the removal of natural vegetation along the outside lines of the park.
The order of magnitude estimated cost of the park is $2.9 million. The initial development phase is suggested to be along the western side of the park, near Cloninger Mill Road. The Parking Lot, Playground, Picnic Shelter, and some trails would be built during this initial phase. The park is suggested to have a Grist Mill theme, because of the former mill located there. There are monies that are available to help fund the park. Site Solutions feels that they put the city in a good position to go after that money.
Discussion by Council and Commission : Councilman Brad Lail asked about Order of Magnitude. Order of magnitude gives a good general idea of the costs of the park, but it is not detailed. It was stated that the DOT traffic count along Cloninger Mill Road is right inside of 20,000 cars per day. Mr. Williams stated that the developers want to maintain existing trails to the greatest extent possible, because it has less of an ecological impact. The trails can be done incrementally. The city can pick one major piece and move forward from there.
Mayor Wright asked about the residential lots available to raise funds. It was stated by Mack McLeod that there are 8 or 9 lots available for $27,000 a piece. The Mayor said that the real value comes with the commercial property (on the west side). The Mayor stated that the people who bought residential property, in the area, knew that there was a proposed park to be built on this site when they bought their homes. Bruce Meisner said the property was zoned residential and the city could have sold the whole east side for residential development. Mr. McLeod stated that this park was proposed in 1979. Mr. Meisner asked about Quadrant Park Funds. Mr. McLeod stated that some of those funds were used during this process.
Brad Lail stated that he sees two routes, the free market approach where someone brings the city a proposal and the other route where the city decides what would fit best on the property. Mr. Meisner mentioned a proposal from 6 or 7 years ago that was brought to the city. Summarizing, it was a scaled down version of the Ballantyne properties (located in Charlotte). Mr. Meisner stated that most of this property is located across from Commercial property that is already there.
Sally Fox asked if they must accept the commercial property as part of the proposal. Summarizing, City Manager Mick Berry said that it was a semantical issue and that it would be up to council to decide all issues pertaining to the commercial property's development. Mr. Meisner stated that the City Council would have total control over that commercial property. Mr. Lail agreed. The Mayor said they could even decide to make it part of the park. The Parks and Recreation Commission voted to accept the plan and forward it to City Council.
The Hound really likes this plan. I think that every issue was addressed thoughtfully and carefully by Site Solutions. I will say that without enabling the sale of the commercial property, then this park should not be moved forward. Council members must recognize that these are serious times when it comes to money issues. The city will profit off of the sale of that commercial property, the tax revenue generated by its value, and any sales taxes should their be retail or hospitality ventures on that property. We cannot afford to throw that opportunity away.
If the impending sale of the commercial property becomes an issue, then I don't believe the property should be developed on the public's dime. I think that either this is developed into a constructive venture with all of the amenities and safety concerns that Site Solutions has addressed or it is time to lock down the property and get people off of it for safety reasons. This is city owned property that is already basically being used as a haphazard park. Let's see this happen the right way instead of the simple way or the cheap way.