By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Unfeasible. Contradictory. Impractical. A work in progress.
Those are descriptions local builders and city staff gave about a drafted ordinance that would mandate developments in Killeen to give the city up to 15 acres of land and charge a fee for neighborhood parks.
"We're just trying to ... identify any avenues we could for acquisition of parkland, development of parkland and so forth," said Glenn Morrison, Killeen Community Services director.
Morrison addressed nine people who attended a public meeting Thursday at City Hall about the drafted ordinance.
"We know this won't be a very popular thing, but we want your input," he said.
Gary Purser Jr., a local developer, was the first to call the drafted ordinance unfeasible.
"Obviously, if you have 30 or 40 plats coming through, you can't build 30 or 40 parks," said Purser, claiming the city does not have enough staff or resources to do so.
The drafted ordinance would call for a developer to give the city one acre per 100 residences in a plat. That's where people called the ordinance draft contradictory.
An area smaller than three acres for a public park is considered, according to the ordinance, impractical. So if less than 300 dwelling units are proposed in a plat, the developer may be required to pay the applicable cash in lieu of land.
Bruce Whitis, another local developer, said the plan contradicts current city standards. The Parks and Recreation Department's master plan calls for one to two acres per 1,000 people served, in contrast to the ordinance that would require two acres per 1,000 people.
The master plan also states that the city should "develop a city/developer agreement/partnership for park acquisition with residential developments."
"That's exactly contradictory to what your ordinance is saying," Whitis said.
More apparent contradiction was claimed when Wayne Duncan, a local developer, noted that the ordinance does not allow the donated land for a park to be in a flood plain.
"Typically, parks are in flood plains because people cannot build there," Duncan said.
Whitis said he has offered to give the city parkland in the past and has been turned down. He asked how mandating it would make it appropriate. Whitis went on to say that sometimes it is not practical to have a park in the part of town where a new development is being built.
"How do you know you even need it?" Whitis said.
John Fisher, a Bell County commissioner and local developer, said the drafted ordinance will drive up costs because the builder will not absorb the money lost in the park space or fee, but will pass it on to the home buyer.
"You're talking a 3- to 4-percent hit on a house," he said. "That's devastating to the housing industry in Killeen."
Purser said if developers are going to have to give up land or money for parks per 100 residences in a plat, they will start submitting plats with 99 homes each.
Gary Purser Sr. said to keep the housing market alive in Killeen, the prices need to stay affordable for military personnel.
"We're just headed for a crash and (will) kill the golden goose that has been laying eggs here in Killeen," Purser Sr. said.
Assistant City Manger Don Christian said the drafted ordinance is a starting point and with input, hopes the staff can make it feasible and practical.
"This is just to begin the process to get people to discuss it," Christian said.
The Community Service Committee directed staff to start a process to ensure more parks are built in Killeen.
Morrison said the process to acquire and develop parks in the city will not be determined soon.
"This is not a fast-track issue," he said.
Morrison said a staff meeting will determine whether this drafted ordinance is on the City Council's workshop agenda on May 15. He also said a second meeting will be needed as the Central Texas Home Builders Association had its general membership meeting and awards presentation Thursday evening, and many from that group could not attend the public input meeting.
"We knew this would be a controversial issue when we were given this task," Christian said. "Hopefully, we can end with a good end product."
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550