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Town may ask for more parklands

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NORMAL - Normal may want more land and money for parks, but requiring developers to provide them makes it nearly impossible to build affordable housing in the Twin Cities, developer Steve Snyder says.

The City Council soon will be asked to consider hiking the amount of land developers are required to dedicate to parks in new subdivisions. The town staff also is considering increasing the fee paid in lieu of land dedication.

"It amazes me how (city officials) talk about wanting affordable housing when they are driving up costs by increasing fees and land dedication," he said. "It's another expense we have to pass on to the buyer."

But Normal Assistant City Manager Pamela Reece said current requirements aren't keeping up with demands.

The town now requires developers to dedicate 5 acres per 1,000 people. The proposal would raise that to 10 acres per 1,000 people.

The current fee in lieu of land is $35,000 per acre. No new figure has been decided.

"Ten acres gets used up quickly when you put in multiple amenities," Reece said. "If we develop parks to what people expect, we need more money to do it."

Reece said Normal has had to dip into the capital improvement fund to develop and renovate parks the last couple of years because the parklands dedication fund didn't have enough money.

"The goal is to have enough funds in the parkland dedication fund," she said.

Twin City developer Vic Armstrong agrees parks are important.

"From conversations with clients, parks are very important but that cost has to be passed on to buyers," he said.

Jim Hayes, president of the Bloomington-Normal Area Builders Association, said those additional costs make it tough for first-time homebuyers to afford a new house.

Snyder said the various fees tacked onto a lot in Bloomington account for more than 14 percent of the cost. In the case of a $35,000 lot, fees alone are $5,124, he said.

Bloomington's parkland dedication is 10 acres per 1,000 people. The city's fee in lieu of land varies according to location of the development.

In some parts of the city, it would be $45,000 per acre while it might be $30,000 in other areas.

Snyder said that while Normal's proposed parkland dedication increase matches Bloomington's, "That doesn't even the field. Normal also has school-land dedication."

Normal requires new developments to dedicate 11 to 50 acres for a school, depending on the type of school needed, zoning in the area and density of the development. The fee in lieu of land currently is $35,000 per acre.

Bloomington does not have a school-land dedication fee. However, Bloomington charges developers an annexation fee and Normal does not.

The Normal City Council will consider adopting a 10-year, $46.3 million master parks plan at its Monday meeting. The plan includes upgrading current parks and adding others.


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