Wellington residents asked to weigh in on park, community center

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The town of Wellington plans to ask voters this fall for a mill-levy increase to fund construction of recreation elements of a new community center complex near the middle school and a long-delayed park in the Buffalo Creek subdivision.

Residents will be surveyed in July for their opinions on the park and proposed recreation center and ballfields near the center of town, but Buffalo Creek residents aren’t convinced that town government will prioritize the park promised when their northwest Wellington neighborhood was developed more than a decade ago.

When Buffalo Creek sprouted a dozen years ago, homeowners looked forward to enjoying a large park to be developed on 40 acres on the east side of the neighborhood. The land was donated to Wellington by Timberline Development in exchange for a reduction in tap fees for home builders in the subdivision.

As buyers trickled into the 434 new homes, the assumption was that the park would be developed within a reasonable time frame. The town of Wellington viewed the planned park and the construction of trails in the area as a much-needed amenity that would benefit the entire town and spent $180,000 for a parks and trails master plan.

The town has built batting cages and a BMX track on the park land and a 300 foot by 300 foot turf area will be installed this summer, along with playground equipment and a shade structure. Yet, from the perspective of Buffalo Creek residents, the designated park area isn’t much more than a field of weeds.

“More than 10 years later, we’re still waiting,” said resident Tim Singewald, president of the Buffalo Creek Homeowners Association. “Things have come to a boiling point.”

It appears to some that the town’s focus on developing the park and trails may be at risk. Singewald said he thinks the Wellington Board of Trustees wants to renege on their agreement to develop the land set aside for the park. Mayor Travis Vieira says that is not true.

Last spring, Wellington purchased the Thimmig property, 9 acres adjacent to Wellington Middle School at a bargain price. Singewald said the town board is more interested in developing a community center on the Thimmig property than in developing Buffalo Creek Park. Vieira would like to see both projects happen.

Singewald sees funds that he understood were set aside for park development shifting to enable development of the community center which will include a recreation center with a swimming pool, a new Boys and Girls Club, new town hall and police station, a charter high school, two football fields and a softball field with lighting for night games.

With the $50,000-75,000 that remains earmarked for Buffalo Creek Park, Singewald hopes to see trees and turf installed this summer, and in the best case scenario, the beginning of the trail system. He also hopes playground equipment will be included in the summer work, provided it is made from material that does not get so hot during the summer months that children cannot use it.

Parent and daycare provider Lorilyn Borchardt has lived in Buffalo Creek since 2005 and is vice president of the HOA. “The promise of the park was one of the reasons we decided to buy in Buffalo Creek.”

The wait to see the weedy land transformed has “been disheartening,” she said, pointing out that little has come of the significant investment the town made in design work for the park. “I’ve been so excited. The plans look beautiful.”

Vieira said subdivision developers often benefit from donating some of their less desirable land in order to get a reduction in fees, and then use the promise of a park to market their projects. In many instances it takes a very long time for these park spaces to be developed.
Borchardt likes the idea of a community center and new town hall, but thinks the town needs to remain true to what she sees as a commitment they made to complete the park before embarking on a much larger and more expensive project.

Town councilman Jack Brinkhoff said Buffalo Creek residents are almost unanimously lined up in favor of developing the park before giving attention to building a community center. He said that if he were a resident of Buffalo Creek, he’d also be anxious to see the park developed.
But he, too, said it is not unusual for parks connected with residential developments to take a long time to get developed. Recently he took the time to research the exact amount of money available for Buffalo Creek Park development and notified Singewald and Borchardt.

These issues have come to a head as the town board placed a full-page advertisement in the current issue of the North Forty News. It details plans for the park and community center and asks Wellington residents to complete a survey that will arrive in their water bills in July, seeking their ideas and opinions about the projects.

As is detailed in the ad, the town board plans to ask the public to vote for a mill levy increase in hopes of making it possible to move forward with both projects; development of Buffalo Creek Park and adjacent trails, and construction of a multi-use community center. Approval may take the form of two separate ballot issues.

The mill levy will increase property taxes by an average of $80 to $160 a year, depending on home value. Money received from the mill-levy increase would be used only to build the recreation center and athletic fields at the community center complex. Other buildings would have different funding sources.

Vieira favors the community center project because it will open the door to the expansion of Wellington Middle School, already over capacity and with nowhere to grow. He fears that without the possibility for expansion, some middle-school students may need to be bused to Fort Collins.

The survey will be included in July water bills and also be available online at www.townofwellington.com. Vieira asks all Wellington residents to share their opinions to help guide their elected officials as they plan for the future.