Timbers Edge

PARK DEDICATION ORDINANCE

Residents' concerns with respect to the development of Hollydale have centered around housing density and the destruction of park land and open space.  So much of the beauty of Northwest Plymouth seems to have been lost to oversized houses on small lots, and 

Residents' concerns with respect to the development of Hollydale have centered around the consequences of housing density and the destruction of needed park land and open space. 

The City has an ordinance to address those issues. Unfortunately, City staff seems to have interpreted that ordinance in a way that both profits developers and gives staff more flexibility over where park land is located. This benefits some residents, and is a material detriment to others.

The City Council apparently either agrees with this practice, or doesn't care.  If they agree with it, they should change their law to reflect actual practice. If they don't agree with its implementation, they should change the behavior of those they hire to implement their ordinances.

At issue is the application of Plymouth Ordinance Section 528, Subd.2, Park Dedication

 

Its "Purpose and Findings" clearly address the importance of park land to the city:

"The Council finds that:

 

A.  The preservation and development of parks, playgrounds, and open space areas within the City are essential to maintaining a healthy and desirable environment for residents and persons employed within the City. Further, the value and attractiveness of residential and commercial/industrial developments to landowners, developers, purchasers, employers, and employees is significantly enhanced by the presence of such parks and open space amenities.

B.   New developments place a burden upon the City's parks and open space system. New facilities must be developed concurrently with development in order to maintain the current level of service and the quality of the environment for all.  Therefore, new developments shall be required to contribute toward the City's park system in rough proportion to the relative burden they will place upon the park system,  in order to maintain the existing level of service to the community.

C.   Residential development of land creates approximately 90 percent of the need for park and recreational land and facilities within the City."

So the ordinance provides for needed parks and open space by requiring that developers contribute to the park system according to the expected density of the development. The manner of that contribution is specified below.

Section 528.03 Subd. 1.

"At the time of subdivision, the developer shall dedicate land for public use as parks, playgrounds, recreation facilities, trails, or public open space, in an amount equal to the development's proportional share of the City park system, as determined by this chapter. Any land dedicated shall be in a location and of a character consistent with and suitable for meeting the needs identified by the City's Comprehensive Plan. Generally, land located within flood plains or wetlands shall not be accepted to meet the proportional share of required land dedication. The City may consider accepting ownership of these lands without giving credit for park dedication."

Notice the key points of the  language: 
  • The developer "shall", not "may", meaning the action is a requirement, not an option
  • dedicate specifically "land",  
  • for "public use", not private HOA use,
  • in "an amount equal to the development's proportional share of the the park system" as determined herein.  The Framework Agreement with Hollydale shows that proportional share to be 2.1 acres of park land for every 100 people, or a factor of .021 acres per person.
  • land shall specifically "be in a location" suitable to meet the needs of the Comprehensive Plan, and,
  • wetlands don't count​
It appears then that the intention of the ordinance is to not only ensure that there is sufficient park land in the city, but to ensure that there is sufficient park land where the residents are. 
 
Still, the ordinance appropriately gives the City the flexibility to accept cash in lieu of land in specific circumstances.

Section 528.03 Subd. 2

"If the Council determines that land is not needed in the area of the proposed subdivision, the City may alternatively require payment of an equivalent amount in cash. Any such cash payment shall be used for the acquisition and improvement of land for parks, playgrounds, trails, or public open space, or as otherwise provided by statute. The cash fee payment in lieu of land dedication is set by Chapter X." ($8,000 per housing unit as of April 2021)

Again, the specific language here is key - if "the Council", not the developer or staff, determines that "land is not needed in the area of the proposed subdivision".
Did the City Council really make a conscious determination that only 7 acres of park land is needed in the Hollydale area?
In the "Framework Agreement" with the owners and developer of Hollydale, the City Manager agreed to 5.64 acres for park dedication, and a significantly discounted cash value for the rest of its park obligation.  Including the buffer on the north side, park land for the development is just over 7 acres.

Yet the Comprehensive plan stated explicitly that were Hollydale to be developed, parks would be needed in park service areas 17 and 18, which comprise all of Nanterre, Courts of Nanterre, Autumn Hills, Fawn Creek, Oxbow, North Fork, Golfview, Timbers Edge and Wyndemere Farms. Those areas total around 500 units, which, at 3.1 people per unit means 1,550 people. A ratio of .0210 park acreage per person means the area should have 32.55 acres of park land.

 

Schmidt Woods is 2.54 acres. So factoring that in, by the City's own standards, 45 acres should be reserved from Hollydale, not 7.  That is, at a minimum, 90 fewer houses at Hollydale. 

ProportionateParkRequired.png
Meeting the standards for park demand would mean 40% fewer houses and 40% fewer cars from Hollydale.
 
At some point in the City's development the Council valued putting the green space where the people are.  We can see that in the older areas of the City.  

But now park acreage is traded for under-market park dedication fees, which staff uses to build another boardwalk on another swamp, or install another chain link fence someplace.
So an amenity is eliminated here, the City gets more tax & fee revenue by allowing hundreds of homes, and park dedication fees are diverted to projects elsewhere.  We are left holding the bag with too many cars and houses in too little space. How is that okay?