City wants 18-acre park in PV by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · July 05, 2013
Mayor Mark Worrell predicts a unanimous vote on July 22 to spend $375,000 to purchase more than 22 acres of Pedersen Valley property for ballfields, trails and playgrounds with the intent to eventually building a recreation center.
The mayor said the idea for the purchase came about a year ago which led to behind-the-scenes negotiations starting a month or so ago, cumulating in the surprise announcement Friday afternoon.
A concept plan turns 18 acres of land mostly north of Crestview Nursing and Rehab into four baseball/softball fields, 180 parking spaces, a concession stand, restroom facilities and sand volleyball courts.
The land sits between Fox Run Golf & Country Club to the west and West Branch Municipal Cemetery to the east. There is farmland to the north.
Scott Drive would be extended northward to reach the recreation complex.
The City Council met in closed session June 24 to discuss the purchase and the intent of the property, which the mayor said ended with a unanimous agreement.
“There was not one nay-sayer,” Worrell said.
However, Worrell said this is only an idea. The city can take out a loan to purchase the land, but it did not tell the voters about its intent before the budget was complete. So either the city can ask voters for approval to build a park, or it can wait until next year to spell out the plans in the annual budget.
Right now, the land is used for farming.
“We started going after grants (for the park) this morning,” the mayor said Friday. “This is not something we will let set. I wouldn’t expect to see a crop there next spring.”
Worrell said he wanted to see the city aggressively improve its parks, and made that clear to city staff when he was appointed mayor in March.
The deal with PV Properties LLC includes a 3.71-acre strip of land just east of Lions Field, which the city wants mostly to give it easier access to the creek for improvements, Worrell said.
“This (second parcel) is useless to them,” the mayor said. “Now we own the entire Lions Field … and control the creek from West Main to the golf course.”
The concept plan for the recreation complex was prepared by Shive-Hattery and can be seen at the city’s Web site, westbranchiowa.org.
If the council approves the purchase, “the next step would be to complete a site plan which would specifically detail where each amenity would be developed on the property,” read a city press release.
The city plans to issue bonds for the land purchase, though that has not been finalized. The city hopes grant funding and donations will pay for developing the ball parks, playgrounds and “supporting amenities.”
The city has attempted to build a recreation center for years, though voters have turned down ideas to date. Worrell said the purchase price of land and construction may be one of the obstacles to voters, so getting the land now chips away at the dollar amount of what voters may be asked to approve later.
The land was under consideration for a new West Branch Public Library. Worrell said there is space for it, but it would be cramped. He prefers that the library stay where it is and expand to the north, but that requires the cooperation of the West Branch Community School District.
“If the school will not work with us, we will have to move (the library),” he said.
He said the city is willing to “help move the bus barn” that sits north of the library and hampers expansion ideas.