MSA reveals master plan for Somerset Village Park; Closed session leaves tubing businesses hanging
MSA Professional Services representative Charles Schwartz gave Somerset residents their first glimpse at what the future of Village Park could look like at the Village Board meeting Tuesday, June 18.
"It was determined that it was a good time to take a comprehensive look at Village Park. It's really about placemaking. Planners will tell you, placemaking is a collaborative process by which you shape the public realm in order to maximize its value. The goal isn't to just maximize the value of the park land itself, but everything around it as well. If it's a draw, there is a huge benefit to the downtown area for both public and private interests," said Schwartz.
The master plan presented was the result of feedback provided directly by residents through an independent online park survey conducted between Sept. 21 to Oct. 12, 2018, data gathered from the Rivers+Roads community survey, the revised Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP) and two separate public engagement sessions conducted by MSA on Nov. 15 and Dec. 13, 2018.
The online survey asked residents to prioritize 15 potential amenities they would like to see in the park. The survey received 239 responses.
At the first public engagement session, residents divided the 15 amenities into three categories; highly favored, liked and disliked, and not favored. In response to a second question, residents determined that the existing ballfields should be removed in phases and replaced with passive recreation options.
At the second public engagement session on Dec. 13, MSA employed the feedback from the first session to configure and present three potential park concepts incorporating the various amenities: roads and parking, building and shelters, playgrounds - hillside and surface, splash pad, boardwalks, bridges, piers, trails and lighting.
The comprehensive master park plan presented Tuesday reflected the feedback received at the second public engagement session regarding the preferred conceptual layout and amenities selected via the online survey. Some amenities include: a new pedestrian bridge on the west end of the park, river access parking of 30 stalls, a pebble beach landing for water craft, three overlooks, a fishing pier, a 3,250 square-foot hillside play area, a 4,000 square-foot playground, a 1,750 square-foot splash pad, a main parking lot of 111 stalls, a 6,000 square-foot pavilion building including restrooms and kitchenette, a 900 square-foot shelter/performance stage, 2.96 acres of open central lawn area and a one mile loop trail with markers every 100 feet.
The plan addresses the primary park space consisting of two parcels totaling 15.37 acres south of the river leaving the two steeply inclined and wooded parcels totaling 4.72 acres north of the river untouched.
The plan calls for the redevelopment of the park to take place in four phases at a total estimated cost of $3,631,388.
Phase I would include the initial regrading of slopes between the upper terrace parking lot, existing pedestrian bridge crossing and river access to create grades of less than 5% to limit the need for ramps and handrails. River Street would be removed and the right-of-way would be absorbed into the park. The access road and lower parking lot would also be removed. The ballfields would remain but the gravel parking area would be eliminated. The existing restrooms would remain. A 6-feet wide asphalt trail would connect the existing pedestrian bridge to the upper terrace park lot. New lighting would be installed on the trail and in the parking lot; 118 trees would be planted. Estimated cost for Phase 1 is $646,187.
During Phase II, the lower terrace parking lot would be created providing access to the river along with an internal park road connecting it to the upper terrace parking lot. A turnaround in the lower lot would serve as a drop-off point for canoes and kayaks. This phase also includes the creation of a stone stepped shoreline and watercraft beach landing and the new pedestrian bridge on the west end of the park. The trail would be continued along the shoreline to the new bridge. Additional lighting would be installed along the river trail and in the lower terrace parking lot; 48 trees would be planted. Estimated cost for Phase II is $704,904.
Phase III calls for the implementation of the central portion of the park. The slopes between the upper and lower terraces would be regraded to maintainable lawn areas. The 6-feet wide asphalt trail connecting the upper and lower parking lots would be constructed at less than 5% grade and a 10-foot wide asphalt trail would be constructed circling the central terrace including two observation decks. The two playgrounds and the small shelter/performance stage would be constructed in the mid terrace area and the ballfields eliminated. Lighting for the loop trail and connection between parking lots would be installed; 51 trees would be planted. Estimated cost for Phase III is $1,974,697.
The final phase, Phase IV, includes the construction of the new pavilion building with restrooms and a concession area. The splash pad would also be constructed during the final phase. Though not included in the final phase, additional trail extensions are contemplated to connect newly developed neighborhoods to the park. The estimated cost for Phase IV is $1, 205,600.
Following his presentation, Schwartz answered questions from residents.
Business owner Mike Kappers (Apple River Hideaway, Kennedy's Cafe) questioned whether redeveloping the park would benefit downtown businesses.
"Taking money from the downtown tax district area, putting it into something that doesn't have anything to do with the downtown directly but not doing anything to fix up the downtown, is that kind of what I'm understanding?" asked Kappers.
"No. It's a community-wide benefit and particularly the downtown," responded Schwartz.
The cost to have MSA develop the master park plan was $27,000 approved by the board at theSept. 18, 2018 meeting. Funds were provided through the Downtown District TIF.
Public Works Director Bob Gunther estimated the upkeep and maintenance for the new park when completed would be between $50,000 to $100,000 annually as compared with $5,000 annually for the park in its current condition.
Related to how many potential "customers" the tubing businesses attract to downtown, a resident questioned whether the new park could generate as much business for community business owners as the current businesses do.
"That's the plan. It's not apples to apples, but that's what placemaking is about. You create a great place. You can show interested businesses, we have this plan in place. This is what we want to get to. You can be in on the front end of this, invest in our community, help us build because this is where we are going. Once it's established and you have the crowds coming, it has a snowball effect," said Schwartz.
Following a closed session to discuss the legal implications of various practices and proposals and potential litigation involving the tubing businesses and in relation to the village's expectations for Village Park, the trustees made no announcement and took no action.
• Trustees approved a drainage plan engineered by MSA to install a new catch basin and connect a pipe upstream to divert storm runoff which has been creating a flooding issue for residents on Arnold Street. Trustees also approved a plan engineered by MSA to reroute the flow of centrate at the Wastewater Treatment Plan around the lift station to another functioning lift station as a way to address the issue yet this year in a financially feasible way. Trustees authorized MSA to solicit bids for both projects.
• Trustees approved spending $37,800 on a project to be conducted by MSA to develop a sanitary sewer and water growth plan. The project will study land use at up to 12 locations where development is expected to occur in the next 10 years in order to estimate population and employment. The project will use that data in combination with existing and historic data to estimate future wastewater flows, new sewer capacity needs and solutions, water supply, demand, delivery and storage capacity. The project will deliver reports and recommendations for both the wastewater and potable water systems.
• Trustees approved the site plan and certified survey map for the public library expansion project contingent on a final review of the infrastructure by MSA and Public Works Department.
• Trustees approved the designation of the west side of Depot Street as a no parking zone in an effort to resolve residential parking issues around Oliphant Brewing Co.
• Trustees approved the issuance of certified letters giving owners of non-complying properties seven days to clean up or have the properties cleaned up by the village and charged to the property owners.
• Trustees approved Resolution 2019-06 accepting the 2018 CMAR report. The village report received straight "A's" from the DNR.