County shelves plans to build parks

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: December 13, 2011, 7:26 PM

 

Following last week’s news that dwindling real estate excise tax revenues would be used to pay debt on county buildings instead of going toward new capital projects such as roads and parks, the county confirmed Tuesday that no new parks will be built in the urban area outside of Vancouver until the economy improves.

That puts on hold 10 park projects that voters in Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek and other urban unincorporated areas thought they would be getting when they authorized a maximum property tax rate of 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to pay for maintenance and some construction of 35 parks.

In 2005, voters approved the Greater Clark Parks District.

At the time, impact fees and real estate excise taxes were projected to cover most of the capital construction costs.

Since then, 24 parks have been built.

Covington and Douglas Carter Fisher neighborhood parks were completed in October; Luke Jensen Sports Park is under construction and slated to open in March.

The 10 projects that will be put on hold indefinitely: Curtin Creek and Pleasant Valley community parks and Dogwood, East Minnehaha, Kozy Kamp, Otto Brown, Salmon Creek Community Club, Sorenson, Tower Crest and Chinook neighborhood parks.

In April, the county announced it would hold off on building nine projects. At the time, Chinook neighborhood park was expected to be completed.

“Under these circumstances, the slowdown we announced last spring has become a full stop,” Public Works Director Pete Capell said Tuesday. “We look forward to developing more neighborhood and community parks, sports fields and trails when the economy recovers to a greater extent.”

Clark County commissioners have set paying off debt as their first capital priority.

Real estate excise taxes are collected whenever a home is sold and are based on a percentage of the sale. The decline in REET revenues has followed the downturn in home sales and property values.

Clark County contracts with Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation for some park services, including planning and development.

That department had its own bad news last week.

City officials said the already beleaguered department faces its biggest budget shortfall since the recession began, with a 10 percent budget cut, program reductions and layoffs on the horizon.

A 20 percent drop in recreation center revenue, combined with a loss of Clark County funds, have combined to create a $1 million to $1.3 million shortfall in the department’s $10.5 million budget, city officials said Friday.

Andrea Damewood contributed to this story.