The city of Frederick finally has a plan in place to develop a park at Hargett Farm.
The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a simpler, scaled-down version of the detailed multimillion-dollar Westside Regional Park plan that consultants presented in August.
Zack Kershner, the city’s director of public works, said the vote lets the city move forward on designing the realignment of Butterfly Lane and an internal access road planned for the property.
“This is kind of the first critical step to gaining access to property,” he said.
Requests for proposals are slated to go out in the spring. Kershner said the project should take about a year to design.
The future park is slated for 136 acres of vacant, city-owned property along Butterfly Lane known as Hargett Farm. City leaders in 2009 paid $18 million for the land, which has since accrued roughly $1.5 million in annual debt service with little progress toward development.
Last year, the city hired the Laurel-based consulting firm G.E. Fielder & Associates for nearly $250,000 to prepare a draft plan for the park. Consultants spent six months preparing the document, which came in with a $98.5 million price tag and tons of bells and whistles, and presented the results to the board in August.
Most of the elected officials balked at the cost and intricate details of the plan. Instead of voting on it, they sent it back to the drawing board. City staff members spent the past five months revising the draft plan, ultimately coming up with the much simpler version that the aldermen voted on Thursday.
The new plan identifies sections and lists facilities, amenities and infrastructure that could go in each one.
The original version called for a sports complex with multiuse fields and a stadium, a water park, an indoor swimming center, festival grounds and associated park facilities, among other developments. The old plan was also accompanied by a 400-plus-page document detailing an archaeological review, a site history, an economic analysis, traffic studies and illustrative renderings for each section of the park.
The new plan does not provide a new amount for the project. With the less restrictive details, however, officials have better options to shift costs.
Aldermen Phil Dacey and Josh Bokee and Alderwoman Kelly Russell spoke out loudly against the original plan, but said Thursday they are on board with the simpler version. They all said they appreciate staff members’ work to bring the new plan to fruition.
“It’s not limiting and it’s not restrictive,” Russell said of the new version.
“It will give us flexibility and feasibility for getting use out of the park in the near future,” Dacey said.
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak and Alderman Michael O’Connor said they believed the first plan has flexibility, but also voted in favor of the simpler one Thursday.
Kuzemchak called the plan an economic development tool and said she is excited it was approved. O’Connor said he looks forward to going forward with the infrastructure for the development.