Archer Lodge will use 3 cents from the recent nickel tax hike to boost its coffers for park property. On Monday, the town council set up a place to put those pennies.
The young town has made parks and recreation a priority, believing that without a police force or public utilities, youth sports and parks management could be its calling-card service. Town Hall sits across from baseball and soccer fields bursting at the seams and managed by the longtime heart of the community, the Archer Lodge Community Center. The council has been searching for more than a year for land to put a park and sports complex.
Last year, the town had a deal with Councilman Carlton Vinson to buy 29 acres for $450,000. The council backed away from that agreement after learning its deal was at odds with state law. North Carolina allows towns to purchase land owned by elected leaders but requires that land to be condemned, with the selling price set by a judge. Archer Lodge had not done that, so the search for park land continues.
The town’s park fund will include $84,000 from this year’s tax increase, along with money developers pay in lieu of creating open space in their projects. Archer Lodge requires subdivisions to reserve at least 15 percent of their total acreage for open space, but developers can pay $1,000 per lot instead. Planning director Bob Clark said the town had collected $4,800 in 2014 and $51,000 last year; the recently passed budget anticipates another $25,000 this year. That puts the town’s park reserve fund around $139,000 to start and as much as $164,000 by next year.
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Vinson said the town could have kept the park funds unmarked in the general fund but wanted residents to see where their extra tax money was going. During the budget process, Vinson, who’s the council’s budget officer, said the town wanted to have a nest egg with which to move on park land when that time came.
“We want to make sure we have a place where we designate that so it’s there and available to us when that time comes,” Vinson said. “We could leave it as a general fund item, but want to make sure everyone understands this is what our goal was with this extra money and this is what we’re going to do with it.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson