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Voters say ‘yes’ to Dardenne Prairie community center, parks expansion

Dardenne Prairie voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot that will pay for a new community center, an expansion of park and recreational programs, and stormwater improvements.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition P, the half-cent sales tax, with 731 residents or 58.15 percent voting in favor to 526 votes or 41.85 percent voting against, according to unofficial election results.

A one-half cent increase in the sales tax will bring in about $600,000 per year in revenue to pay for a community center and other park amenities expected to be built on 10 acres that the city owns at the corner of Post Road and Hwy. N.

The sales tax also would fund new amenities, parks programs and maintenance at the four existing city parks and necessary stormwater improvements.

Before the election, Mayor David Zucker said the sales tax funding could go to finance the construction of a center on the 10-acre tract with estimated costs of up to $7 million. The city also expects to have $200,000 to $300,000 left to pay for annual operating costs and expanding parks and recreational programs.

Zucker said city officials are still developing plans for the center that will be based on input from residents.

“We will now embark on a more robust public engagement,” Zucker said on Nov. 9. The city has ready sent out an opinion survey.  A town hall meeting to gather input on the use of the sales tax will take place in January.

“We will continue to engage with the public until we think we’ve gotten about as much input as they’re willing to give us,” Zucker said. “I’ve said form should follow function – what kind of programs do we want to provide and what kind of facility will let us do that.”

The city also has to figure out how to develop those programs and how to maintain the building.

“I have a one-man parks department and two guys that handle buildings and ground maintenance,” Zucker said.

The city may spend much of 2018 looking at gathering that input before making decisions and turning the process over to professional architects and engineers to prepare construction plans and documents that can go out for bid.  Construction may begin in 2019.

The 10-acre tract on which the center is to be built is owned by city and located across the street from Immaculate Conception of Dardenne Catholic Church, not far from city hall on Hanley Road. It is centrally located and could provide a venue for indoor sports, classes, public meetings and other activities.

The city will start collecting the new revenue in April 2018. Zucker said the additional sales tax may cost about $30 a year for someone spending approximately $500 annually in the city. However, the center and new park amenities would enhance property values and add to the attractiveness of the area for development.

“It will make property along Hwy. N for years more interesting,” Zucker said.

In the November election, residents also approved six of eight involuntary annexations of unincorporated islands of land adjacent or surrounded city boundaries on the ballot.

A majority vote by registered voters living on the parcels being annexed and from city voters is  required to approve the annexations. However, the annexations fail if the propositions fail to gain a majority vote in either the city proposing to annex the property or in the proposed annexed property.

The eight parcels range from 1.5 acres to 14.22 acres along Hwy. N and Feise, and Hanley roads. City voters overwhelming approved all the annexations with large majorities. But the annexations of a six-acre parcel at 7800 Hwy. N and a two-acre parcel at 1436 Feise Road failed because two no votes were cast from each area proposed to be annexed.

Other requirements include the city adopting a plan of intent to provide services to the areas annexed within three years after the annexation is approved and establishes how the area will be zoned. The city also has to seek a declaratory judgment from a circuit court judge ruling the annexation is reasonable and necessary.

Zucker said the city can approach the two property owners and ask for a voluntary annexation. “I’ll what till next year and we’ll go and take their temperature and see what their issues were,” he said.

The annexations are part of a plan for bringing as many as 20 or more small unincorporated parcels into the city.  Four proposed annexations on the April ballot also were approved.

 

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