As you know, there’s been some talk of building a new Washtenaw County recreation complex in downtown Ypsi, on the seemingly cursed parcel of land commonly referred to as Water Street. I wasn’t going to post anything about it, as I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other, but, seeing as how a conversation has broken out in another, almost completely unrelated thread, I thought that I should probably start something here, on the front page.
Here, by way of background, is a clip from a mid-April post on AnnArbor.com:
Washtenaw County officials are beginning to push for a new recreation center to be built on Ypsilanti’s Water Street property. The $8 million to $10 million recreation center could spur Water Street development and serve as the centerpiece in a series of area parks linked by the eastern Washtenaw County Border to Border Trail, its planners say.
Last week, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the possibility of building the new 50,000-square-foot recreation facility on a parcel of Water Street along the Huron River.
Officials on all sides underscored that the idea is only being discussed, but Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Tetens said all the discussions have been positive and the Parks and Recreation Commission “has given the green light” to begin exploring the possibility.
The 38-acre Water Street site is adjacent to downtown Ypsilanti, off Michigan Avenue. Tetens said a recreation center would need 10 to 12 acres of that property, ideally along the Huron River, which flows into Ford Lake less than a mile downstream. The city recently cleared Water Street of its remaining abandoned buildings and Tetens called the property a “diamond in the rough”…
I should probably add that the conversation that has taken place here on the site so far was instigated by the following exchange between myself and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber.
MARK: As progress on the Water Street development would change the City’s fortunes considerably, I should probably ask if there have been any developments…
PAUL: Discussions of a county recreation center on about 1/3 of the Water Street property continue, but none have occurred at the city council table. No action will occur in the near future, until commitments are made.
And, here, to give you a flavor for the discourse so far, are a few comments left by readers of this site:
I didn’t know that the proposed county health and fitness facility would take up 1/3 of Water Street. That’s a lot of land for something that wouldn’t contribute a dime in taxes.
MAYOR PAUL SCHREIBER:
Concerning Water Street, the 1/3 land figure was something I heard, but is just one of the many details that need to be decided. Stay tuned.
ANDREW JASON CLOCK:
So, I was wondering why we haven’t heard any more about Washtenaw Parks and Recreation’s plan for a recreation center on Water Street? Isn’t this something we should be talking about, at least? They are talking about BUYING 10 – 12 acres of Water Street and constructing a huge attraction on it, one that could bring jobs and pedestrian traffic downtown, and so much more.
As the mayor points out, we don’t even have a recreation department. We have almost no recreation facilities, and the ones we have, particularly Rutherford Pool, are in need of major repair or total replacement. WCPR wants to build a modern version of the facility on Washtenaw in A2, including indoor and outdoor pools, weight rooms, exercise rooms, and much more, and make the place a hub for the Border to Border trail, which thousands of people use every year. This project would also bring infrastructure to Water Street (roads, water, sewer, power) making the adjoining property much more attractive to developers. I can’t think of anything better we could possibly do to kick-start a revitalization of Water Street, Downtown, and Depot Town, and give us a viable recreation facility.
Yes, there is the tax issue. As county land, that 10 – 12 acres would not be taxable. But guess what, it hasn’t generated tax revenue in 10 years, has absolutely no prospect of generating tax revenue in the foreseeable future, and it’s purchase cost and interest payments are what are draining our cash reserves. What do we have to loose? Not tax revenue, because again, we haven’t gotten any of that from Water Street in 10 years!
I’m challenging council to bring this issue to the public, either in a council session or a town hall. What is being done to make this deal a reality? If members of council are lining up against it, what is their reasoning, and what, exactly, is their better plan, and why didn’t they bring it up sooner?
I don’t see anything on the horizon that can compare to what the county is offering. This project is a chance for Ypsilanti to get a new start for downtown. Why aren’t our leaders talking about it?
YPSILANTI COUNCILMAN PETE MURDOCK:
The concept of a County recreation facility’s possible location on the Water Street is in the serious discussion stage. The staffs of City and County Parks and Rec are meeting to flush out the details of this possibility. At the moment other than a concept that the City and County Parks and Rec are willing to explore, there isn’t anything more to unveil or discuss. The goal is to have a more detailed plan presented publically to City Council in September that would include issues that are not currently determined, such as the size, location and scope of the proposed facility, the infrastructure needs of the site, and the timing of the construction. When we have more complete information, we will have a real project to discuss.
The fear that some (or all) City Council members are opposed to this project is unfounded and I have spoken to all of them. The City would not have initiated this discussion with the County Parks and Rec if City Council was opposed to the concept. At the moment there are plenty of details to be determined and worked out and then we will have an actual plan to look at to support or oppose. Your attempt here and other places to man the barricades on this issue I sense is a little premature.
The City was able to eliminate Parks and Rec because they rely on the Township programs and facilities without contributing to the funding of those programs and facilities. Having the County fund a Rec Center on Water Street makes it impossible to capture taxes to pay off the existing debt, which was the original plan for Water Street. There won’t be taxes on a County facility that can repay City residents. If the County builds a Rec Center at Water Street they should not have to pay for the land. It’s City owned land and the City stands to reap an economic benefit from its development.
I think the new Rec Facility should be built farther away from the pre-existing facility. It should be put in close proximity to a larger portion of county residents. Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents at a significantly lower cost to the County. Really, how much of Water Street do you want to use for parking for a popular Rec Facility?
“Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents at a significantly lower cost to the County.”
Since you suggest that the City should pay for a county rec center within its borders, I assume that by proposing that the rec center be built in the Township, you would like the Townwship to foot the bill? Did the Township pay for the county’s Rolling Hills Park and Water Park?
As for the City relying on Township Parks & Rec “without contributing to the funding of those programs and facilities”, that’s just a lie. The Township charges a higher non-resident rate for most uses.
I’m not sure about Rolling Hills but the land may have been donated. The Whitaker Road library was built on land donated by the Township and 75% of the cost of the building was paid by the Township. I don’t think the City should be able to have the County pay for the land on which they build a Rec Center. It’s not the county’s obligation to bail out city residents for the mistakes made by former elected officials. I think the land for the new Rec Center is in the Township Master Plan and available to the County at no charge.
The Township charges $10 more for classes to city residents than township residents, but class fees pay only a small portion of total costs. The Township has a large staff and significant costs for recreation and parks.
1. I’ve spent a bit of time researching and, as best as I can discern from County records and media accounts, Rolling Hills was purchased with millage funds and some supplemental matching Federal grants.
2. I read the Ypsi Township master plan and the only reference to a rec center I found was a nondescript thought of having the Township fund their own rec center with a Township millage. Please direct me to your source if I’m wrong.
3. Following that, you said: “It should be put in close proximity to a larger portion of county residents. Putting the new Rec Center in Ypsilanti Township would benefit a greater number of County Residents.” The Township is rather large with winding boundaries. Can you tell me/us where in the Township you foresee a Rec Center being more accessible to “a greater number of County residents.” Can I assume it would be accessible by bus?
4. This gets personal. My kid has, I admit, enrolled in activities at Township facilities. I assumed this was welcome because: A) The Township routinely mails a catalog of programs to my home. B) Half the kids in the class where not from the Township, which seems to make it unlikely my kids class would be viable without the participation of folks from surrounding communities (specifically, in my limited experience, Ypsilanti city, Superior Township, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor Township and Ann Arbor city).
5. If we are sucking off your tax dollars, I apologize. We selected the Ypsi Twp programs because they were close to our home and a large number of our kids friends were in the program. Oddly, these friends live outside of Ypsi City but went to Ypsi City schools…
6. Perhaps you’re right. We should trace every dollar and make sure everyone outside of a border pays their full share. Maybe Ypsi should charge Township residents a fee for the Heritage Fest, Elvis Fest, Orphan Car Show… Better yet, maybe we should charge admittance to all the folks east of Prospect who go to Prospect Park or walk to the bus stop or use our sidewalks.
Maybe what we need to make our region great is fiefdoms.
I don’t have the right to judge since I live in Superior Township which has almost no parks of its own, but our family likes to ride our bikes to parks and playgrounds. I can’t say our experience is normal but we aren’t going to Ypsi Twp again. We rode to Loonfeather? first time. The only other people there was a guy getting a blow job in a pickup from what I presume was a hooker. Not a conversation I was ready to have with the kids. Then we tried a ride to the Ford Lake park. A bunch of guys with sticks and a pit bull “fishing” for turtles. Needless to say we did not feel welcome as we went by. In both cases we could not find anyone at the booth or who seemed to be working. We called the county sheriff and they said they would send someone by but we didn’t wait. Seemed like a free for all. Really disturbing use of public space. I’ve gone back alone to see if our experience was normal and each time it seemed like the parks were there for prostitution. I would not want to go back let alone take my family. I hope people in the township care enough to do something about this for their sake not ours. We are done with it. More important things to care about!