Hendersonville City Council members on Thursday gave the go-ahead for a $6 million bond issue to develop Berkeley Park and ranked improvements they said residents could expect to see if voters approve the bond issue.
The first improvements that would be made if voters approve the bond issue on Nov. 5 are a new entrance drive and parking lot, picnic pavilions, a destination playground, memorial tree garden and a walking trail, council members said.
A phase of improvements the council ranked second includes an artificial turf soccer field, an overlook garden, a loop trail around the pond, a youth mountain bike trail and a second parking lot with bathrooms.
The bond issue would require a 3-cent tax increase over 20 years, finance director Jim Rudisill told the council.
The first phase improvements and costs were:
Councilman Ron Stephens, who is running for mayor, said he opposes the bond issue because of the timing and the tax increase. The city manager's recommended budget for the current fiscal year called for a 3-cent tax increase to cover debt service from debt payments from the work the council has approved for Main Street and for a new fire station and new fire truck. The council refused to pass it, and instead used reserves to cover the debt. Stephens says the council will have to pass it next year, and together with the bond issue would be saddling city residents with a 6-cent property tax increase.
"Taxes are going to go up next year that we know about," he said. "There's really two issues; one is the park but the other one is the timing. I do not personally think this is the time to be spending more on the park; taxes are going up next year. I'm very concerned about what the state Legislature is going to do. They didn't hit us this year but they're circling."
And he said the Main Street improvements are form of a park, with people walking, relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. Counting Jackson Park, Flat Rock's new park and improvements to Mills River and Fletcher parks he said, the county is spending plenty on parks.
"I can't support the bond issue," he said.
Jerry Smith, who has been the most vocal advocate for developing Berkeley Park, outlined the top-ranked improvements he hoped the bonds would cover. Kimberly Clark Corp. donated the 60-acre park and baseball stadium to the city in 2008.
"Kimberly Clark gave us a gift, a jewel," Smith said. "I think part of our responsibility is to develop it for the citizens of Hendersonville."
Mahyor Barbara Volk said there's a reason cities and the county are spending on parks.
"I feel this is where a lot of people’s interests are right now," she said. "What we’re proposing is very different from what’s being done in other places…. particularly the playground. And I think with the connection with the greenway we’re going to have more and more people coming up there and wanting to have something to do when they get there. I’d like to see it happen.... It’s up to the voters. They can decide if they want to do it."
If voters say no, she said, the council will have to decide how to proceed at Berkeley Park.