Real estate slump forces county to shelve plans to build parks
Pete Capell, Public Works Director
Vancouver, WA – Clark County will delay plans to build new parks in the urban area outside Vancouver until economic conditions improve, in keeping with priorities set by the Clark County Commissioners.
Meeting as the Greater Clark Parks District Board, the commissioners today finalized plans to dedicate the district’s special property tax to maintain and operate existing facilities through 2012. The action formally reversed an earlier plan to budget some property tax for construction in 2012.
Meeting as the Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 6, the commissioners finalized plans for the county to use Real Estate Excise taxes in 2012 for debt payments on buildings and facilities other than parks and roads.
As a result, there is no budget to build new county parks in the current budget cycle, through 2012. Based on earlier actions, the Luke Jensen Sports Park still is scheduled to open in 2012. The sports park currently is under construction in Hazel Dell.
Clark County contracts with Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation for some park services, including planning and development. County budget actions will affect Parks and Recreation once staffing plans are set for 2012 and beyond. In addition, the county will reduce public information and outreach related to urban-area parks.
“Under these circumstances, the slowdown we announced last spring has become a full stop,” said Public Works Director Pete Capell. “We look forward to developing more neighborhood and community parks, sports fields and trails when the economy recovers to a greater extent.”
Capital funding to design and build parks comes primarily from park impact fees and real estate excise taxes. Impact fees are paid by developers of new homes. Real Estate Excise taxes are collected whenever a home is sold in Clark County, based on the sales price.
The continuing downturn in construction, home sales and property values has led to a sharp reduction in those sources of revenue for the county.
Voters approved the Greater Clark Parks District and its property tax levy in 2005 to pay for maintenance, operation and some construction of new parks, sports fields and trails. Impact fees and Real Estate Excise taxes were available and projected for most capital construction at that time.
For more information, visit the Greater Clark Parks District’s website: www.clarkparks.org.