Neighbors persuade council not to sell Ramada Park

2013-09-23T21:54:00Z 2013-09-24T09:50:05Z Neighbors persuade council not to sell Ramada ParkBy ED KEMMICK ekemmick@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Passionate testimony from neighbors of Ramada Park persuaded the City Council on Monday night not to put the undeveloped parkland up for sale.

The council did, however, vote to proceed with the sale of two similar properties, Lampman Park on Monad Road and a sliver of parkland in the Briarwood subdivision.

The potential sale of the three properties was recommended by a subcommitee of the Parks Board, which was asked to evaluate more than 500 pieces of undeveloped parkland in the city and identify which ones could be sold. The idea was to use sale proceeds to improve existing developed parks.

Although Ramada Park, just north of Rimrock Road and 19th Street West, was never developed by the city, neighbors testified that they love their “natural park” and take care of it themselves.

Gene Herbert said the “wonderful little park” has been well used for decades and is home to all sorts of wildlife.

Everett Jones told the council that he bought a tractor specifically so he could keep the half-acre park mowed, and other neighbors chip in for gas. He said he also hauls trash from the park to the landfill and has cut down Russian olive trees in the park.

In the end, Ramada Park was left out of the motion to proceed with the sale of the other two properties.

Neighbors of six-acre Lampman Park, though, successfully appealed to the council to give them some protection from developments that could hurt their property values and add to traffic congestion in the area.

As a result, the council approved an amendment from Councilman Ed Ulledalen to require city staff to initiate a zone change on Lampman Park before the land is put up for sale. The zone change is to make the land compatible with the rest of the neighborhood, which consists of single-family homes.

No conditions were attached to the recommendation to try selling a strip of parkland — a little more than a tenth of an acre — in the Briarwood subdivsion.

Meanwhile, complications arose regarding another issue involving parkland. The council was scheduled to vote on a resolution that would have assessed park maintenance district fees on buildable but undeveloped lots in five subdivisions in the city.

For reasons unknown, the developers who held those lots had not been asked to pay the fees in the past, increasing the burden on homeowners in those subdivisions.

City Administrator Tina Volek told the council Monday night that development agreements affecting three of those subdivisions — Ironwood, Uinta-Twin Oaks and Falcon Ridge — threw a hitch in the city’s plans.

Language in those agreements said park district fees would not be assessed on properties until “restrictions on transfers and conveyances are lifted.” Volek said those restrictions were generally lifted after services like sewer and water had been extended to the properties in question.

The upshot, she said, is that the city needs time to determine which of 1,184 properties in those subdivisions are legally on the hook to pay the park district fees.

The council later voted to continue a vote on the issue until a special meeting on Oct. 7, during a regularly scheduled council work session.

Volek said all 2014 taxing information has to be transmitted to Yellowstone County Oct. 9.

The council also approved a special review request that will allow the expansion of Trinity Church of the Nazarene at 25 Hilltop Road.

The church plans to add 1,500 square feet to the existing 2,880-square-foot building.

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