by Jimmy Lee King
On January 13th 2015, a meeting was held at the VFW hall in Dayton Kentucky. The task force was assigned by Mayor Boruske at the last council meeting on January 6th 2015.
City administrator, Michael Giffen, along with city council members: Jerry Gifford, Joe Neary and Joey Tucker, hosted an open meeting to talk about the 6-acre Riverside Park “park conversion” relocating it to the 4.5-acre Dayton Pike location. In total, 19 spirited people attended the meeting. Varying opinions were heard everyone shared their own perspectives. The tone of the meeting was serious but not negative.
Giffen stated that The Manhattan Harbor development has taken a long time to get to where it is. “If we get the restriction released on Riverside Park, then 2015 can be the year the riverfront in Dayton finally becomes a reality.”
Council member, Joe Neary, made the point that “it’s important the Manhattan Harbor development move forward. The taxes alone can make a major change in Dayton for the school system, fire department, police department, Main Street and many other things the city can’t afford right now.”
As part of the agreement with DCI, developing the land that is now considered Manhattan Harbor, Riverside Park would have to be moved to another location of equal or greater value. This process is called a “park conversion”. One of the viable options was relocating the park to the 4.5 acres of land on Dayton Pike that has been vacant and unused for years. It’s known to many as where you commonly see deer roaming.
The Dayton Pike land has potential for green space, with a walk through trail, similar to Eden Park. It was suggested that water sculptures could be implemented. Many other types of plants and flowers could live there, that would absorb water and make a much nicer picture when driving by than what has been there for years. Finding a real use for the space took some imagination and effort to make sure the land was possible for use. The land has now been through 2 separate inspection processes that the city has paid for. The price of those inspections to date is $29,000 and the land has been certified as a place to relocate Riverside Park. The last step is for the city to apply to lift the restriction on the park.
Michael Giffen, Dayton City Administrator, has spent the last 3 years working on the “park conversion”. Giffen has been working hard to disarm the complications and road blocks that impede the progress of what is stated in the agreement between the city of Dayton, KY and DCI. It’s one piece of the puzzle that seemed to be going in the right direction, until at the last city council meeting, on January 6th 2015. Giffen was giving a progress report on the park conversion and was met with resistance by resident Catherine Hamilton. Hamilton, was not in favor of the park conversion, moving from Riverside Park to Dayton Pike. Hamilton went on to say “I understand that Dave Imboden is in a hurry to develop Walker Park. I don’t care that he is in a hurry. To push something through because a developer is in a hurry and someone that owns that property wants to sell it for $40,000.00 is not in the best interest of the citizens of Dayton.”. You can watch all of what was said at the Dayton City Council meeting on January 6th 2015 about the “park conversion” at: BDSUNKY.COM-Dayton KY City Council Meeting January 6th 2015.
Dave Imboden of DCI, has at this point, paid $15,500 for 2 separate appraisals of Riverside Park and Dayton Pike. The last, completed on 11/14/2014. $29,000 is allocated for Dayton Pike that Dave Imboden will reimburse. There has also been an environmental study and archeological study on Dayton Pike that has taken over 3 years to complete, as well as acquisition of permits. To say that much time, money and long hours has been poured into the development already would be an understatement. To deviate from the current park conversion plan would start the city and DCI back at the beginning, which would add on another 2 plus years and additional $30,000 that has already been spent.
Giffen has stated that every study that has been done is by the book and guaranteed by reputable firms who specialize in their fields of engineering and appraisals. They also had a company verify the appraisal to make sure they were done correctly.
A time line of the events for the “Park Conversion”
In 2008 the site plan for the Manhattan Harbor Development was approved by the city, which showed that the park restricted area would be developed.
In 2012, Dayton didn’t want the deed restriction on the Riverside Park land to prohibit the city from keeping the opportunity of the Manhattan Harbor development, knowing the economic benefit of a development of this scale would be for the city. Updates in reference to the park restriction included: raising of the park land out of the 25-foot flood plain and the closing of Riverside Park to install the sanitation lines. If the land was to be developed, the park conversion would have to be realized or restored to some level that is open to the public. The site plan for the development had already been approved so someone could actually develop the riverfront. At the time City Administrator, Dennis Redmond, pressed on with doing the park conversion to lift the restriction on the 6 acres of riverfront land and move the development forward.
In December 2012, Dayton city council voted and approved the first amendment to the amended and restated development agreement along with a new site plan for Manhattan Harbor.
In November 2013, a public meeting was held discussing ideas about the Dayton Pike property. Citizens were encouraged to attend and give ideas on what they would like to see in the development of the park on Dayton Pike. There were many ideas given at the time. Things like walking paths, sculpture gardens and gazebos were mentioned and no citizens raised any objections to the park and the development of the land on Dayton Pike.
Council member, Jerry Gifford, voiced his concern that losing Riverside Park meant that two federally mandated tennis courts were lost, and have not been replaced. He went on to mention that the track and athletic fields were displaced as well.
When asked when people stopped using the track, Gifford said “around 2004” which he thought was around the time the sewage pipes were being installed in the ground below the flood wall. Councilman Gifford has had a seat on council during the time of the riverfront development negotiations.
According to former councilmember, Penny Hurtt, the track at Riverside Park “had cracks in it, was not regulation length and was flooded at least once a year.” Hurtt also went on to say that “all other cities are not responsible for paying for practice facilities for their local schools. That is the school’s responsibility and that is something that school taxes should pay for.” She suggested that since “Dayton Pike is a county road, maybe Campbell County would pay for some of the renovations to the land on Dayton Pike.”
When asked what other options there were for Dayton Pike, Giffen said any ideas that have been presented for the land have been voted down by past city councils.
An option was presented by Catherine Hamilton:
Hamilton said the city should make the developers (DCI) buy all of the houses on the North side of 4th Avenue and the houses on the West side of Walnut Street in the 100 Block. “This becomes a significant green space. It creates a front yard to Dayton, a place for a Soccer field, movie nights in the summer.” Hamilton, went on to say “Give us this, make this happen and do Dayton Pike and maybe we will let Riverside park go”. Giffen said “these houses are not part of the development agreement, they’re not part of the Tiff agreement, they’re not zoned “mixed-land use”, so you’re talking rezoning and a redevelopment agreement, a very expensive process which is the reality. The developers are going to say, we didn’t sign up for this. These are businessmen, who have agreements that have been made that go back over 10 years. The city has to do the park conversion, we have to do the paperwork end of it.” Everyone has been working toward the release especially Giffen, who has put 3 years into the lift on the restriction of Riverside park.
In the end there were no decisions made, but many people were more informed about the entire project and those who were there were able to voice their feelings about the matter. Giffen remained very patient and objective while hearing everyone’s opinions and ideas.
Giiffen, urged everyone to proceed on applying to lift the restriction on Riverside Park. It doesn’t mean the city has to give a green light to DCI after getting the restriction, but if the application didn’t go through then the city would know it would have to look for another property. Dayton has waited a long time to get to this point, and has went through; multiple challenges, thousands of hours and dollars. Getting the lift on the restriction of Riverside Park will give the city the actual leverage to show DCI a tangible goal has been met. This may help DCI, be open to options as the city and DCI partner together for a bigger, better future in Dayton Kentucky.
To watch the video of this meeting, go to BDSunKy.com Dayton Kentucky Park Meeting 1/13//15.