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Caledonia eyes 20 acres for park expansion

by Brian Jones
The town of Caledonia has authorized Town Attorney Jeff Smith to negotiate the potential purchase of about 20 acres of land. The piece of land is located next to the back right corner of Ola J. Pickett Park, and would be used for a park expansion.

The property is owned by Dr. Jim Dowdle. The town had previously offered to buy 10 acres at $2,000 an acre, but Dowdle refused to sell at that price.

Last month Alderman Mike Savage distributed several proposals from Dowdle to the board and asked them to consider it for action at this month’s meeting. Alderwoman Brenda Willis suggested that the board consider purchasing 20 acres of land.

Dowdle wants $120,000 for the land, or $6,000 an acre.

Savage made a motion to go with that option, and was seconded by Willis.

“My first question is do we need 20 acres?” Gerhart asked.

“Yes,” Savage said. “We’re looking at adding roughly five soccer fields, and a soccer field is bigger than a football field. Then we’ll need to have an area between them for concessions, parking, playgrounds. We have tennis courts planned, and the best place for them is back there. We may put Frisbee golf in.”

“The main thing is we need this for our future growth,” Willis said. “We’ll have room to add on as needed back there,” Savage agreed.

“What about easements?” Gerhart asked.

“We will need to get some right of way for access,” Savage said. “Probably about fifty feet.”

“Right now you just need to vote to move forward with the process,” Smith said. “You just need to concentrate on doing this one step at a time.”

“We can’t really work anything out anyway without the land,” Savage said.

“We originally appraised the 10 acres of land we were looking at over there at $20,000,” Gerhart said. “What he’s asking is above the appraised value. It looks like 20 acres wouldn’t be but $40,000.”

“You’re going to have to get another appraisal,” Smith said. “You’ll have to get somebody to come in and do an appraisal that doesn’t count on the land being used for agricultural uses.”

“The land will mean more to us than it will to anyone else,” Willis said. “So that should make a difference, too.”

“You can pay a little bit more like that, but not $4,000 an acre more,” Smith said. “You can pay above the appraised value incrementally, but you have to be able to justify it.”

“If we go along with this, how are we going to pay for it?” Gerhart said.

“The county has allocated $100,000 in its budget for the town of Caledonia to purchase the property for park and recreation use,” said District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders, who was in the audience.

“When will that be available?” Gerhart asked.

“Right now,” Sanders said.

“We’ve also got the $20,000 a year in in lieu money that I don’t think has been allocated for anything, and that comes in June,” Willis said.

“What if we decide to go along with this and we get it and then have a problem with the right of way?” Gerhart asked. [If I am understanding things correctly, the property the town wants to buy is landlocked. – Brian Jones]

“The purchase is going to be contingent on our ability to get right of way,” Willis said.

“We’ve still got some things to work out,” Savage said.

“All you’re doing right now is deciding which option you want to pursue,” interjected Smith.

“Twenty acres isn’t going to break the bank,” Savage said. “This land isn’t perfect, but it’s real close to it.”

The board unanimously approved going forward with negotiations.

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