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Westmoreland, Robbins Park and Nature Preserve: Proposed Land Reconfiguration & Acquisition Overview.

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Presentation on theme: "Westmoreland, Robbins Park and Nature Preserve: Proposed Land Reconfiguration & Acquisition Overview."— Presentation transcript:

1 Westmoreland, Robbins Park and Nature Preserve: Proposed Land Reconfiguration & Acquisition Overview

2 Robbins Park and Nature Preserve 50 acres of an undeveloped 100 acre parcel located at West Catawba Avenue was leased to the Town in 2002 by Mecklenburg County for park use. The remaining 50 forested acres is managed by Mecklenburg County through its Park and Recreation Department's Division of Natural Resources as a natural area. The firm of Cole Jenest and Stone was retained in 2003 by the Town to complete a conceptual plan for development of the Town's 50 acres. The development of this concept plan is ongoing and under active review and revision by the Town Board. Items such as neighborhood connectivity, possible school sites and traffic connections with West Catawba Avenue were part of the planning process for the Park. New development near the proposed Park such as the Westmoreland Athletic Complex and a proposed subdivision on the parcel to the North, are all part of a dynamic mix being considered by the Cornelius Town Board as it develops its funding options for the Park and explores potential land exchanges and reconfigurations of the Park land. In 2003, property to the North of Robbins Park was placed under contract by Simonini Builders and Provident Development Group. These two developers proposed a joint planning process to reconfigure the current park. A resulting 11 month study was undertaken with both Town, County staff and public input to craft a reconfiguration of the land owned by Mecklenburg County to accommodate what is envisioned to be a better use of park land, open space and facilitation of a public private venture to leverage limited public dollars. Introduction

3 Prior Proposed Residential Development Area

4 Background Current Proposed Development Robbins Park Current Proposed Master Plan Development 3. A developer/joint venture currently has an option/contract (and has submitted a proposed subdivision) on the tract of land adjacent to and north of the Robbins tract to develop a 155+ lot neighborhood. 1.The Town of Cornelius has secured a long term lease from Mecklenburg County to develop a public park. One of the key objectives/requirements is to preserve the land and to take measures to protect McDowell Creek. 2. As part of the Interlocal agreement between the Town of Cornelius and Mecklenburg County, the Town of Cornelius has agreed to pay for the development (approx. $4m) and operation of the park. However no funds are currently available for development and none have been allocated in the preliminary budget for FY05.

5 2. The current configuration separates the park from the WAC and a large residential development (Alexander Chase). Westmoreland Athletic Complex Land Parcels 1.The Westmoreland Athletic Complex (WAC), which is a privately owned facility, will provide active recreation capacity for area athletic leagues (e.g., CLNYAA).

6 Proposed Location

7 Proposed Residential Development Area

8 Conceptual Master Plan

9 Conceptual Master Plan; Residential, Park & Preserve


11 Issues / Concerns – pg. 1 What is the position of the Town staff and Board on the proposed reconfiguration? The Directors of the Parks and Recreation and Planning Departments and staff believe the proposed reconfiguration is a positive improvement over the current proposed park master plan configuration. The Parks Director likes the idea of providing increased protection for the watershed under park management, increased access to existing and planned developments, and the developer investment which will accelerate the development of the park and improvement of its overall quality. The Planning Director believes the enhanced pedestrian and vehicular connectivity provided to Westmoreland Road, Birkdale and the Cooke property. The Town Manager believes the reconfiguration is notably improvement to the respective individual plans. The Town Board (in closed session) is enthusiastic about the proposal and has recommended approval contingent upon Mecklenburg County authorization. Is the park really just an amenity for the development? Shouldnt the developers give the Town a lot more money? Will the design cause significant traffic problems? One could argue that Jetton Park is an amenity for The Peninsula, but few would assert this based on current usage. The design of the West Catawba entrances (which will have twice the frontage of the current design), will be clearly signed and appointed with Town images. In fact, its entrance and visibility will greatly exceed that of Jetton and Ramsey Creek Parks. The park design will encourage pedestrian movement and connectivity to surrounding residential and commercial communities. While the home owners will benefit from being adjacent to the park, the design of the park entrances, pathways, and streets will leave no doubt that Robbins Park is a publicly accessible amenity for all citizens. The due diligence completed by the Town staff suggests that the developer has made an equitable offer. The hard benefits alone reduce the estimated build-out costs of the park by 20%. This will also likely accelerate the development of the park in addition to increased tax revenue. The reconfiguration improves alignment options for entrances and exits and it provides for connectivity that will allow for better dispersion of traffic. With additional exits North (to Westmoreland) and South (to Birkdale) the flow will be greatly improved providing significant alternatives to West Catawba Ave.

12 The Town is recommending approval of a land exchange that will add some 16 acres of park land to what is now known as Robbins Park. It is anticipated that the Town will revise its lease with Mecklenburg County and conducted a joint master planning process with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department once the land has been reconfigured. Payment for such surveying will be funded by the Town under the terms of its lease. Discussions surrounding the acquisition of property, will, of course, be conducted in closed session. Issues / Concerns – pg. 2 Will the reconfiguration set the stage for a park master plan that is predominantly active (ball fields, etc)? There are no assumptions and no commitments to the developer or any others with regard to how the park will be developed. The reconfiguration may accommodate a fully passive park plan, a fully active park plan, or a hybrid. If the reconfiguration is approved, a master planning process will be sponsored by the Town to determine the best use for all stake holders. It should be noted that the preserve area of the park would be largely undeveloped under either configuration. What is Mecklenburg County's role?

13 In addition to the above hard and soft benefits, the estimated increased taxes collected will exceed $43,000 per year, based on projected increases in home values. Developer Proposed Value Exchange Economic Benefits - $1,416,549 in value Hard Benefits from Developer Investment $7,500 Professional services savings $90,000 Civil Engineering of park road / utilities, including McDowell creek crossing $20,000 Utilities and infrastructure extensions $150,749 Park access street improvements $52,300 Front walk landscaping $90,000 Greenway trail development $60,000 Park entrance development and related monument signs $470,549 TOTAL Hard Benefits Soft Benefits from Developer Investment $100,000 Parking lot reduction (assuming WAC use for special events) $336,000 Discounted value of 16 acres donated ($21,000 / acre) $510,000 Eight lots relinquished for park use $946,000 TOTAL Soft Benefits

14 Summary and Recommendation The reconfigured master plan produces a number of benefits for the Town and for the residents of Mecklenburg County. This includes: 1. Funding that will accelerate the development of the park. 2. Increased park acreage under Town management. 3. Increased control over environmentally sensitive areas (McDowell Creek basin). 4. Access to the private recreation facility (Westmoreland Athletic Complex) and to shared parking for special events, leaving more green space within the park. 5. Enhanced park access for adjacent developments. 6. Better support for Town infrastructure design (connectivity) and greater options for traffic management and increased transportation mobility. Recommendations / Next Steps 1. Authorize staff to execute an agreement securing developer commitments. 2. Move forward with a recommendation to Mecklenburg County for approval of reconfiguring land holdings. 3. Upon Mecklenburg County approval, coordinate joint public master planning processes with Mecklenburg County.

15 MECKLENBURG COUNTY Park and Recreation Department August 24, 2005 Mr. Anthony Roberts Cornelius Town Manager P.O. Box 399 Cornelius, NC 28031 RE: Robbins Park Land Exchange Dear Mr. Roberts: This letter is provided to clarify the issues of the July 26, 2005 meeting with Bobbie Shields, General Manager. As you recall this discussion was associated with the proposed land exchange at Robbins Park. For many years, the responsibility for designing and developing practical and affordable park opportunities had fallen to the County. In recent years, the County has welcomed the participation of the suburban towns to extend experiences and facilities beyond the traditional resources of the County. Certainly, this project has taken far too long to resolve. Unfortunately, this is mostly because the proposed development did not fit within Mecklenburg Countys standards or concepts for planned parks and natural areas. After many meetings with staff and stakeholders, County staff has determined that it would be in the best interest of all parties associated with this proposal to revise the existing Lease Agreement between the County and Cornelius for the above referenced property. This is promulgated by County Staffs perception that the Robbins Park Project is being driven by the developers needs and the Towns transportation requirements versus citizen demands for a functional, safe and enjoyable park environment. These outside interests are incongruent with the Countys park planning processes. Seemingly, remedies for a host of perceived problems associated with the publics use of this land for recreation pursuit do not exist. These could be: conflicts between automobiles and pedestrians that appear accelerated because of the thoroughfare road that separates principal active and passive use areas, disconnection of natural areas by other roadways, and the limited public access from Catawba Avenue which gives the perception of a exclusive use or a private park environment for future residents, rather than being inviting to the general public along the proposed parks frontage. I strongly encourage the Town to not allow this site be driven by outside forces that lead to poor site design for public park purposes. Emphasis should be placed on recognizing the sites essential characteristics that guide good site design to maximize the publics patronage of the proposed park and its active and passive components. However, with the spirit of cooperation at the forefront, County staff will recommend supporting the Towns concept of the land swap solely because of the added economic development opportunities that would benefit the Town with the following but not limited to stipulations and restrictions: 1.Land Exchange. The proposed land exchange increases the size of the protected natural area (Nature Preserve) and reduces the size of the active recreation area. Note that the development cuts into the original nature preserve area, but due to additional preserved areas along the tributary, there is a net increase in nature preserve acreage. Thus, the Town would agree to designing, developing, managing and maintaining the entire park inclusive now of the natural and passive areas and their ancillary amenities. 2.Integrity. The nature preserve must be protected in perpetuity. The developer will be required to install an acceptable barrier (fencing) along rear property lines of lots contiguous to the nature preserve so as to control access. Roads constructed in the park create disconnected natural areas. However, these roads should not diminish the viability and usability of these small plazas nor that of the active parkland or major body of the nature preserve. The Town will guarantee unlimited access to the general public to all use areas and trails. In the event that fees and charges are levied of individuals or user groups, no differential fees will be levied for Mecklenburg County residents residing outside of Cornelius corporate limits. Additionally, the Town would agree to providing protective buffers and to employ other best management practices to protect and conserve McDowell Creek. Robbins Park Land Exchange

16 3.Lease. The agreement must be revised to reflect the entire acreage being leased to Cornelius. The Town will be responsible for design, development, operations and maintenance of the total site. Trail development, maintenance and safety in the nature preserve/natural area are key in the operation of these types of passive, outdoor recreation venues. The Town will provide a survey and supporting legal description that clearly delineates all lands, natural and active use areas to be considered in the land swap. 4.Modifications. Any proposed changes or potential acquisitions of adjacent properties and/or the planning of transportation corridors and routes that could impact the integrity of the park or natural area need to be brought to the attention of Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Department to reach consensus on the proposed changes prior to implementation. 5. Cost of Transaction. Although the County is certainly willing to cooperate to help Cornelius with this proposed exchange, the County does not believe that it should bear any costs with respect to the transaction. To that end, the County proposes that either Cornelius or the developer agree to reimburse the County for all of its expenses, including legal fees, incurred in connection with the negotiations of this exchange and other soft costs associated with the exchange including but not limited to the cost of obtaining surveys and the cost of obtaining title insurance for the property which is to be obtained by the County in the exchange. Staff has not completed the analysis for adjacent properties (PID#00507166, PID#00507118 and PID#00507116) to Robbins Park and their relationship to the Open Space/Parkland Acquisition Challenge Program and its interlocal agreement criteria as requested in your July 29, 2005 correspondence. It is my goal to have the review on the adjacent properties in the mail to you no later than close of business on Friday, August 26, 2005. With your concurrence on the points outlined herein, staff will authorize County Attorney Marvin Bethune to begin drafting the revised lease agreement. Once crafted the revised lease agreement will go before the Board of County Commissioners for approval. Staff would like to make arrangements to get on their agenda for 5:00pm on Tuesday, September 20, 2005. Please convey your approval at the earliest possible occasion so I can expedite the agenda request process. Warm regards, R. Wayne Weston Director Copy to:Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager Bobbie Shields, General Manager, Office of the County Manager Marvin A. Bethune, Mecklenburg County Attorney Bill Brown, Cornelius Town Attorney Nancy M. Brunnemer, Real Estate Services Department Steve Law, Real Estate Services Department W. Lee Jones, AIA, Manager, Planning and Alliance Development Services Gregory A. Jackson, Manager, Recreation & Operations Services Robbins Park Land Exchange, pg. 2

17 Robbins Park & Adjacent Westmoreland Property

18 MECKLENBURG COUNTY Park and Recreation Department August 26, 2005 SENT ELECTRONICALLY HARDCOPIES TO FOLLOW Mr. Anthony Roberts, Manager Town of Cornelius P.O. Box 399 Cornelius, North Carolina 28031 Dear Mr. Roberts: We are in receipt of your letter dated July 29 th 2005. In it you formally request Mecklenburg County to purchase three (3) specific parcels of property adjacent to Robbins Park in the Town of Cornelius. Consideration of the purchase of these properties (totaling 22.451 acres) is supposed to be requested under the guidelines of the Open Space/ Park Land Acquisition Challenge Program. This requires the Town to provide specific due diligence as described in the Interlocal Agreement (IA) (Enclosure 1) between Mecklenburg County and the Town of Cornelius. This IA is specific with regards to its requirements and compliance therewith. Your request has been reviewed in accordance with the above referenced requirements. Staff review has revealed that certain of the requirements have simply not been addressed. In an effort to assist in this process, we are providing a spreadsheet listing the requirements and indicating those which remain outstanding (Enclosure 2). I am requesting that you review the attached spreadsheet and provide the comments and items required for compliance and/or inclusion in the IA. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience should you have questions or comments. Staff and I look forward to working with you on the proposed acquisitions. Sincerely, R. Wayne Weston, Director Enclosures: (1) Open Space/Parkland Acquisition Challenge Program Interlocal Agreement (2) Open Space/Parkland Acquisition Challenge Program Compliance Worksheet Copy to: Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager Bobbie Shields, General Manager, Office of The County Manager Marvin A. Bethune, County Attorney Nancy M. Brunnemer, Real Estate Services Department Steve H. Law, Real Estate Services Department W. Lee Jones, AIA, Manager, Capital Planning & Alliance Development Services

19 In Compliance?Needed Information Location Consistent w/ Town's Plan for AcquisitionYESNeed to find it in Town's MP Not in County's Master Plan for acquisitionYESMust confirm with Nancy; Parks MP; Greenways MP and CAN To be a natural area; a portion of greenway; park land (50% undeveloped); scenic view shed; for watershed protection; a farm theme park; or a farm.NO The proposal calls for a Sportsplexes. 50% must remain undeveloped. Need the Sportsplexes MP. Consistency with Town Plan Town Plan approvedYESAssuming it was approved, need documentation stating it was approved. Town Plan includes preservation of natural open space.YESNeed to find it in Town's MP Consistency in acquisitionsYESNeed to find it in Town's MP Use Limitations Maximum 50% used for all "active recreation purposes"NO The proposal calls for a Sportsplexes. 50% must remain undeveloped. Need the Sportsplexes MP. Public Access Open to the publicYESStated in their proposal Limited Improvements No Improvements on proposed land?Need Aerials of Property Existing structures should be demolished by the Town?Need Aerials of Property Ownership Land acquired and owned by the TownNOProposal calls for MCPR to own the property and lease it to the Town. Type of Ownership Marketable fee simple interests in landNOProposal calls for MCPR to own the property and lease it to the Town. Permitted Title Exceptions Title must be insurable?Need Documentation ExceptionsN/ACheck if applicable Survey Matters Surveyed by a NC registered land surveyor.NONeed Survey Access Access to a publicly dedicated roadYESWestmoreland Avenue; Need Sportsplexes MP Conservation Easement Town to record Conservation Easement?Check if applicable Environmental Hazards Receive a Phase I Environmental Site AssessmentNONeed Environmental Assessment Stewardship Plan Provided an adequate plan for the long-term care and management of the parcel.NONeed Long-term Care and Management Plan No Overlap With County Master Plan Not in County's Master Plan for acquisitionYESMust confirm with Nancy; Parks MP; Greenways MP and CAN Open Space / Park Land Acquisition Challenge Program Compliance Worksheet

20 Submitted by: Nancy M. Brunnemer, Meck. Co. Real Estate Services Dept.Initiated by: R. Wayne Weston, Meck. Co. Park & Recreation Dept. PROJECT PROPOSAL AND LOCATION: It is proposed to exchange a portion of a 100-acre Mecklenburg County-owned parcel (Robbins Tract) with a developer. The County-owned property is Parcel # 005-071-12 (101.698 acres), and the privately owned property (the Westmoreland property) is Parcel # 005-071-11 (74.856 acres). Both properties are located on West Catawba Avenue within the Cornelius extraterritorial jurisdiction. Both tracts are currently undeveloped with the exception of two single-family houses (one on each parcel) and outbuildings. The County currently has an agreement with the Town of Cornelius to develop a District Park on 50 acres of the Robbins Tract. Another 50 acres of the Robbins Tract is protected under a conservation easement and for watershed protection. The Westmoreland property is optioned to a developer who initially planned to construct a single-family subdivision upon it. The proposed land exchange would rearrange the land uses within the combined +/-175 acres to better utilize the property for residential, recreational, and conservation purposes. Approximately the same number of dwelling units will be constructed under the land exchange scenario as were previously proposed for development on the Westmoreland property. Specific unit locations will be determined upon completion of an overall master plan, that will be finalized with approval of the land exchange. The net result will be that the County will maintain +/- 116 acres for future park development (as opposed to the current 101-acre tract), broken down as follows: 50 acres of natural area, 50 acres active park and 16 acres of greenway on McDowell Creek. Since the County has leased 50 acres of this land to the Town of Cornelius for a District Park, the town will fund the parks development. A conservation easement protects 50 acres that will be preserved as a natural area and for watershed protection. The small stream flowing into McDowell Creek and a section of McDowell Creek and its floodplain are included in this natural area. PROJECT JUSTIFICATION: Planning staff from the Town of Cornelius proposed the rearrangement of uses to create a more suitable relationship between housing, traffic (ingress/egress at West Catawba Avenue) and other land uses in the immediate area. The proposal to exchange the properties slightly increases the amount of public park area and does not infringe on the portion of the property within the established 50-acre conservation easement. The same amount of acreage will be available for the town to develop as an active park as with the current agreement for the Robbins tract. CONSISTENCY WITH ADOPTED PUBLIC POLICIES: The Cornelius planning and park staff as well as the Mecklenburg County park staff have worked together to create the proposed reconfiguration of the property. CONSISTENCY WITH ADOPTED LAND USE PLANS: The Cornelius 1999 Land Use Plan calls for low density and mixed use residential and open space preservation, which is considered to be consistent with the proposed development scheme. PROJECT IMPACT: The Cornelius planning staff feels this proposed reconfiguration will work better in managing traffic issues at West Catawba Avenue. Essentially the same amount of residential development would occur with the exchange; a net increase in park/open space area would result from the exchange. This area is in the Mountain Island Watershed where the watershed regulations will apply. The town has permitted around 35-40% coverage on more recent developments. The project will also increase control over environmentally sensitive areas within the McDowell Creek basin. RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER PUBLIC OR PRIVATE PROJECTS: Public recreation has been the only proposed use for the Robbins tract prior to this exchange proposal. Public accessibility to 1,200 linear feet of greenway will be ensured, as well as enhanced park access for surrounding residents of Alexander Chase, Birkdale Village and adjacent neighborhoods. The increase in connectivity and improved options for traffic management including vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle mobility will also have a positive relationship with surrounding projects. The plan also has the potential to increase public/private partnerships with the planned youth "Sportsplex" complex that is immediately to the north of the Westmoreland property. These privately-developed athletic facilities could be managed to serve as an extension of the proposed County park. ESTIMATED PROJECT COMPLETION DATE: The date of park development by Town of Cornelius is currently unknown. (The Robbins Tract was acquired with 1999 Land Bonds.) JOINT USE TASK FORCE REVIEW COMMENTS: There have been preliminary discussions with CMS concerning the possibility of an elementary school at this location. However, there may be difficulties accommodating a school, the proposed private development, and the watershed protection area. The school district could economize on land requirements by contracting with the owner of the adjoining private ball fields to enable exterior play space required by the school to be accommodated on this private property. CMPC STAFF RECOMMENDATION: Planning staff supports recommends approval of this proposed land exchange to accommodate the proposed land uses. CMPC PLANNING COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION: Staff resource: Greg Burnham MANDATORY REFERRAL REPORT NO. 04-26 Proposed Land Exchange – Robbins Tract at West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius


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