Friends & Neighbors,
The Dardenne Prairie Board of Aldermen met Wednesday, July 19 to discuss expanding the parks & recreation operations and the annexation of 8 parcels of unincorporated St. Charles County.
The City’s current park facilities provide outdoor recreation to small children at the City Hall Park; to youth baseball and softball players at the City ball fields; and to youth soccer, lacrosse and cricket players at the Barathaven and Bluebird Meadow practice fields. In addition, the City offers a limited social gathering at City Hall once a month for adults over 50 years of age and a limited number of outdoor music concerts and movies in the City Park during the summer. We have plans to add recreational baseball and softball in the late summer and early fall.
The City Hall Park is nearly full every day during good weather. Park usage shows there is a need for more playground facilities, pavilions, and open spaces. In addition, we believe the City’s recreational programs are serving only a small portion of our residents. We are looking at options that would enable the City to provide programs for a wider range of interests and age groups all year round in both outdoor and indoor activities.
The City has already committed to making investments to upgrade the City Baseball Fields next to City Hall, presently owned by the Dardenne Athletic Association. Ultimately, ownership will transfer to the City so that any investments by the City would be public property. These investments would likely include paving the parking lot, improving lighting on the playing field and building restrooms and an equipment storage building. A variety of outdoor sports and recreational programs using the ball fields will be planned for about 8 months of the year.
Since my last report to you on July 15 the City was informed by the St. Charles Community College that they were not going to sell, lease or share facilities (Gym and athletic fields) with Dardenne Prairie. That news was disappointing. It means the potential option of expanding the existing City Park at Barathaven by adding the gym and grounds next to the soccer fields is no longer available. I will offer no further comment for the time being.
If the residents of Dardenne Prairie want to expand parks & recreation there is a parcel of about 10 acres, owned by the City, at the SE corner of Post Rd. and Highway N, diagonally across from Immaculate Conception Church. We could build a community center there as well as other park amenities. The community center would provide a year-round venue for indoor sports (basketball, volleyball, pickle ball, etc.), classes, other activities such as yoga, Zumba, dance lessons, and rooms for meetings and social events. We even considered a commercial kitchen. Outdoor amenities could include playgrounds, sand volley ball, a large lawn area, walking trail and pavilions for rent for parties, etc.
We are compiling estimates of the costs to develop these additional park facilities. We think the City could finance about $6 million to build the community center and get a great start on the rest of the outdoor amenities. Although we have just started to examine concepts and are still gathering ideas from the public it is clear that we could not proceed with just the current revenue in the City’s budget. More revenue will be necessary. The City will need a one-half cent sales tax increase to be approved by the voters. This “Parks & Storm Water Tax” would be used only to service the debt incurred to build a park and would provide revenue to pay operating costs of expanded recreational programs and park maintenance. Of course it is also available for repair and maintenance of storm water facilities, such as storm sewers.
The Board of Aldermen will consider whether to ask the Voters of Dardenne Prairie to agree to a half-cent increase in local sales tax. The City will not proceed with any detailed design or construction of the 10 acre park unless the Voters support the plan and agree to the sales tax. We are considering putting the proposition on the ballot for the November 7, 2017 election. If adopted, the sales tax rate in Dardenne Prairie would still be lower than the rates in Lake St. Louis, Wentzville, or most of O’Fallon. Between now and mid-August your Aldermen will be asking your opinion. We invite residents to visit City Hall and let us know if you want to expand parks & recreation and if you would vote to raise the sales tax to support the expansion. Come to our meetings on August 2 and August 16. See what kinds of park amenities and designs we are looking at and tell us what amenities you would like to see. Our hope is to place the proposition for a half cent sales tax before the voters on November 7, 2017. If approved by the voters we will move ahead with park designs. If the tax increase is rejected we will not proceed further.
At our Board meeting tonight we also adopted resolutions to proceed with annexation of 8 parcels of unincorporated St. Charles County that are within the city limits. We were successful in April in bringing in 4 parcels that are nestled in the city limits and are prime candidates for development. Any development on those parcels will now be subject to the zoning and building codes of Dardenne Prairie instead of the County government. Two of the 8 parcels are ripe for development and a third parcel is already having construction done. I believe it is in the interest of our community that the City has some say in what goes where and how it may be built. As to those 8 parcels, the City presently has no say. We will notify the owners of the 8 parcels and hold a public hearing on Tuesday, August 22 to consider whether to proceed with annexation and to place the propositions on the ballot for a vote on November 7, 2017.
In the meantime, please take care of yourselves in this heat. It won’t last forever. Our next meeting of the Board of Aldermen is scheduled for Wednesday, August 2, beginning at 5:30 PM at City Hall. Come see your City Government at work!
“Shine a Light on City Government”
DAVID C. ZUCKER
City of Dardenne Prairie, MO