“If we were to buy it, the citizens would have an ongoing loss,” Watkins said. “It’s just not profitable. Every $1 million we spend represents a third of a penny of county ad valorem tax, $1 million we can’t give to schools or the sheriff’s department ... It’s a matter of limited resources."
Watkins added, “I’m also against public taxpayer dollars competing against a privately owned golf course” or any private enterprise.
At the same time, "it is worth looking at providing greenspace in that area,” Watkins said, but whether that would be part of the property or all of it remains to be seen.
The way the matter has unfolded in recent days has been disappointing in a few ways for Kusek, she said.
"The issue has not been brought before all five of us together, and I don't think it's appropriate for one commissioner to go out and make a statement on behalf of the board of commissioners because each of us has one vote," Kusek said.
Kusek said the county is well above the average for the amount of park space it has while the city is well below.
"But the other issue is that we are charged to be fiscally responsible, to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, and things have to be paid for. We can't do everything for everybody, and there's a lot of issues in this town right now, including opioid abuse and mental health [treatment needs] and a lot of other things we have to find money to take care of and be proactive with," Kusek said.
But Kusek said she's always open to listening to options, other than buying a struggling golf course that would have to be maintained. "The whole issue has to come before us before I'd be willing to go out on a limb and make a statement either way," she said.
Mayor Bill Saffo said this week, "I think it should be a partnership between the city and the county because significant growth in the next 10 years is going to be in that corridor from Shipyard Boulevard down to River Road."
When the $38 million parks bond referendum was approved by voters, population growth and a scarcity of land was key, Saffo said.
"When you look to the future as to how many people are going to be in that section of the county and the city, I still feel personally that we need additional open space for future needs because once it's gone, it's gone forever," the mayor said.
Had city officials known earlier that the Echo Farms property might be the subject of development, the city might have been able to include it or a portion of it in the bond plan, he said. As it stands now, Saffo said, "I will tell you I'm hopefully optimistic that something positive can happen."
Taylor said Friday that in the meantime, "we're continuing to move ahead with the development process," working with Save Echo Farms on the final designs for each of the tracts included in the master plan and incorporating modifications based on resident input.
Christina Haley O'Neal - Dec 13, 2017
Cece Nunn - Dec 14, 2017
Cece Nunn - Dec 15, 2017
Christina Haley O'Neal - Dec 14, 2017
Jessica Maurer - Dec 13, 2017
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