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Salt Lake County voters to decide fate of $47 million for regional parks, trails

If approved, $47M to be set aside for parks, trails

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2012 3:18 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says a $47 million bond for parks and trails is needed to meet the county's growing recreational needs and public demand for more facilities.

On Nov. 6, Salt Lake County voters will decide whether to raise their property taxes — $5.73 per year on a residence valued at $238,000 for the 20-year life of the bond — to develop three parks, purchase land for another and substantially complete two major trails.

The issue will appear on the ballot as Proposition 1.

Corroon says the timing is right, given favorable lending rates and relatively low construction costs. The projects would also create construction jobs, he said.

"I've always said I'd rather build more parks than jail beds. We have a huge demand for parks in our community, especially soccer fields and baseball diamonds," Corroon said. "We want to keep our young kids active, healthy and doing productive things. A park is one way to do all of that."

The mayor's proposal, which was placed on the ballot by unanimous vote of the Salt Lake County Council, is a pared-down version of a $110 million plan voted down by the council in 2011.

The County Council rejected the earlier plan because of its size, the burden on taxpayers during the economic downturn and because part of the bond would be used to address deferred maintenance of existing parks and recreation facilities.

Earlier this year, Corroon introduced a streamlined proposal that would substantially complete the Jordan River Parkway and Parleys trails and develop regional parks to complement others in the Salt Lake Valley, such as Sugarhouse and Liberty parks. The County Council voted unanimously to place the proposition on the ballot.

"Even if these parks aren't being built in our own communities, we've all seen plenty of examples of events in which people are using these parks wherever they live in the valley," Corroon said.

The Utah Taxpayers Association is opposed to the bond, largely because it is unclear how the county will handle millions of dollars of deferred maintenance for existing facilities, let alone develop more.

"If you can't keep up with the tens of millions of deferred maintenance that you've already got, it's hard to see how expanding that portfolio is going to make it easier to keep up with that," said Royce Van Tassell, Utah Taxpayers Association vice president.

Corroon said the administration and County Council have mutually agreed to address deferred maintenance through the parks and recreation department's annual operating budget.

The county budget won't be finalized until after the election. Whatever the solution, "(Corroon) will be out of office" when it is implemented, Van Tassell said. Corroon is not seeking re-election.

While Van Tassell says the bond proposition is an attempt by Corroon to build upon his legacy, the mayor said the proposal before voters will develop projects that will enhance county residents' quality of life.

"We pared it down," Corroon said. "It's not a Christmas tree list of everything that everyone asked for their different communities. These are what we felt were the best projects to meet the current and ongoing needs."

Proposition 1 

• What it would cost: $47 million over 20 years

What it would do: Complete the Jordan River Parkway and Parleys trails; buy land for future park development in Magna; and build three regional parks in Bluffdale, Draper and West Valley City/Kearns. 

• Proposed property tax increase: $5.73 per year on $238,000 home over 20 years; $10.24 per year on a business valued at $238,000 over 20 years.

PROPOSED PROJECTS FOR PARKS AND TRAILS BOND

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