HARGETT FARM – This project is the darnedest thing I have seen in Frederick. About 12 years ago, the City bought an approved development at the height of the market using restrictive municipal bonds that they said they could not refinance (btw – they refinanced). They sat on the parcel for a decade paying $1.5 million a year in debt service before they gave FCPS a great site for a new – and needed – elementary school for nothing. The projected loss of property taxes is $ 1 million a year, plus at least $ 15 million in lost impact fees for schools, parks, and water/sewer connections. The purchase was not in the Comprehensive Plan or the Budget and continues to impact affordable housing and water/sewer rates.
A year ago, the City paid $250,000 for a consultant to design a fantastic – but unaffordable -- $98.50 million park with multiple sports fields and a water park. This year, the City included $2 million in the current capital budget for infrastructure improvements, but there is no money budgeted in the next 5 years for any build-out. The current Task Force is hard at work, with many City employees serving, but no one from the Finance Department is on the Task Force. You cannot complete a $98.5 million project without the money people at the table!
I love sports, I love team sports. I played through college. I think sports help build character and good health, but this is financially silly and unfair to City taxpayers. The only likely way to pay – whether in parts or as a whole – is through debt funding ($5,400 per household).
For comparison purposes, Carroll Creek flood control costs were about $ 65 million, plus the two phases of the park (less than $40 million). The difference is the economic engine that the Creek continues to be with over $150 million in private investment resulting in housing, jobs and tax revenue.
My recommendation is to divide the remaining land, build a very nice and more affordable facility and use the remaining half for private development (possibly senior housing to avoid school capacity concerns). This allows the City to develop a more affordable recreational facility, add to our housing stock and get a small portion of the property taxes back.