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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

Springfield Township: Parkland acquisition, maintenance fee looms

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When developers build housing subdivisions in Springfield Township, they'll be hit with a $500-per-lot fee to fund parkland acquisition and maintenance.

The resolution, submitted in draft form at last week's township trustees meeting, was passed after only 10 minutes' discussion. It got a boost from developer Richard Moses who said he had once opposed fees of that sort, but has seen amenities spring up in communities after park fees were imposed. He now favors such fees, he said.

Although it is an additional expense to developers, "it makes it easier for me," in selling houses in new developments when the community has improved recreational facilities for residents, he said.

Developers, he said, "create more people" in different populations and it is appropriate that they bear some of the cost for improving those communities.

Mr. Moses was at the meeting to represent his company, The Moses-Schlachter Group, on two residential subdivisions that trustees approved. The two developments have a total of about 100 houses and will now cost Mr. Moses $50,000 more to complete.

Robert Seger, zoning inspector for the township, noted that the money will be spread out over some years as the development company completes the subdivisions in stages.

Last year the township approved 123 housing sites, he said. If all had been in subdivisions, that would have translated into $61,500 the township could put toward parks.

Mr. Seger noted that the resolution only relates to lots in new subdivisions and not to individuals who own a lot and construct their own home.

The majority of new housing in the township is constructed in subdivisions, he said.

Township attorney Tim Greenwood said the fee is legal as long as trustees can show a connection between new development and the need for more parkland and money for maintenance and other costs.

A master plan for the township notes that the township is deficient in park space by about 192 acres, according to standards of the National Recreation and Parks Association.

Recent acquisitions have reduced that deficiency to about 154 acres.

That information is sufficient to show a need for the fee, said Bob Anderson, township administrator.

Although the resolution was passed in draft form, Mr. Anderson said it is appropriate for what the trustees want to achieve.

The draft had termed the charge an "impact fee,'' but Mr. Moses suggested that it should be called what it is: a park fee.

"Call it a park fee and it will go over better in a developers' stomach,'' he said.

He also suggested that the fee be paid when the plot of a subdivision is accepted by the township.

"When it's time to sign the plot, that's when the developer should pay,'' Mr. Moses suggested.

The resolution calls for the money to be used for "the operation, maintenance and improvement to existing parks and for additional capital facilities.''

Mr. Anderson said the anticipated revenue is not earmarked for any specific purpose, but it is possible it could be used as matching funds, such as for a partnership project with Holland to construct a bike path from Strawberry Acres Park to Albon Road.

A favorable aspect of the fee is that the township can gather funds for recreation without directly taxing residents, he said.

Contact Mike Jones at:mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6069.



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