Park construction could start this summer
WESLEY CHAPEL – Despite a handful of concerns from some town leaders and a few local residents, Dogwood Park jumped another hurdle this week and is on schedule to open in 2013.
Wesley Chapel’s board of adjustment approved a proposed conditional-use permit Monday night, March 19, meaning the project will go out to bid possibly as soon as the next few weeks. The nearly 23-acre park will be built at the corner of Lester Davis Road and Hwy. 84.
But before the permit approval, residents and town board members had a few outstanding issues to discuss.
The group agreed a safe path must be constructed between the park and overflow parking at nearby Southbrook Community Church, at 5607 Monroe-Weddington Road. People also will park at the church for special events being held at Dogwood. Butch Byrum, chairman of the town’s board of adjustment, said the path was a necessity “to satisfy us that (the park) does not endanger public safety and health.”
The park also will have portable restrooms after the adjustment board requested they be added to the plan. Parks aren’t required to have restroom facilities, but the board asked for them to satisfy an “availability of services” element. No permanent restrooms are in the plans as of now, though town leaders say they’ll add them if money becomes available.
Meanwhile, the board opted not to force any additional improvements to the park’s entrance, which will be on Lester Davis Road. Currently, plans call for a 20-foot-wide, two-lane driveway entrance on the western side of the park. The board had discussed the possibility of requiring dual turning lanes to provide a safer entrance and exit at the park, while some residents had raised concerns that the current location for the entrance was in a blind spot and might be dangerous.
After discussion, the board voted 4-1 that the current entrance plan was OK. Creig Williard was the sole dissenting vote.
Another concern raised Monday night involves noise associated with the new park. Wesley Chapel resident Chris Appleton spoke to the board, saying he’s worried special events and concerts at Dogwood would create too much noise for residents to deal with.
Park planners say they’ve spent a lot of time trying to field concerns like that and make sure the park is something good for both nearby residents and the town. And they say it’s time to move forward on this plan.
“Throughout the process, we’ve done our best to engage the residents and neighbors of Dogwood to capture their concerns along the way,” John Lepke, president of the town’s parks and recreation committee, told the board when urging them to approve the proposal Monday night.
In the end, the board unanimously stated the permit met all its requirements and specifications, would not substantially injure adjacent properties or prevent future development, kept the park in harmony with the surrounding area, provided adequate safety and emergency services and met all additional criteria.
“I think everybody on the council is excited to get to this point,” Mayor Pro Tem Kim Ormiston said. “A lot of kudos goes to the parks and rec committee who has been working for more than two years to bring this to fruition.”
After the town collects bids for the project, which should happen over the next few weeks, construction could start as early as this summer. The project will take around a year or less to complete.
The first phase of construction will include an amphitheater with a lower and upper section for concerts and special events, a fishing pier on the lake, a paved walking trail around the lake and other accessible walking trails. The plan also includes a 48-car parking lot, unpaved overflow parking section, lighting and water and sewer lines.
The second phase of the park will add a picnic shelter and small playground area.