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Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Wetlands plan faces final vote

Project linked to West Bank walkway

By Timothy Cox
Celina City Council members will be asked at Monday's regular meeting to buy a 5-acre tract of land along Coldwater Creek that will satisfy the requirements of a state permit to build a lakefront walkway.
The purchase of 5.107-acre tract of land from Steve Klosterman has already been debated by council members but could spur further discussion at Monday's meeting. The deal has been in the works for months but was held up as final details of the walkway and related financing were worked out.
The city would spend $53,837 - $12,500 per acre - to acquire the undeveloped site along the creek south of Celina. The city already paid Klosterman $10,000 for a purchase option that long ago expired. The $10,000 will be applied toward the purchase price.
The walkway contractor will excavate the site to lower its elevation to make it flood-prone and then use the topsoil as part of the walkway construction, city development consultant Kent Bryan said.
The money will be paid from the Grand Lake Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district, which represents diverted property tax payments from new development in the area. The TIF also is being used to pay for the estimated $1.2 million first phase of the walkway project.
The city will borrow the money with interest and annual payments made by the TIF, which last year generated $95,000, but is expected to grow significantly with new development in the district.
The exact cost of of the first phase has not been determined. The base construction bid was $845,000, which was well below prior estimates. City officials could decide to award some alternate contracts for more walkway, street resurfacing or lighting that would push the tab closer to the $1.2 million figure.
The West Bank Rotary Walkway is envisioned as a mile-long concrete path built on 25-feet of new fill added to the lake. A grassy strip would separate the new path from the street. The second phase would fill in what will be a 2,500-foot gap in the walkway's first two sections and possibly add other amenities to the project.
The land deal with Klosterman will almost certainly be approved, but won't likely see a unanimous vote. Councilman Ed Jeffries has opposed the entire walkway project from its inception. Councilwoman Angie King questioned the wetlands project at a recent council committee meeting.
The Coldwater Creek land lends itself naturally to wetlands creation, Bryan said. The city will plant some grasses and seedlings and the wetlands will be completed. A small portion of the acreage already is wetlands, he said.
"This land has always been attractive to me because it is fairly easy to create wetlands," Bryan said.
Theoretically, the new wetlands will benefit Grand Lake by trapping nutrient-laden sediment before it reaches the creek and ultimately the lake. The plan is not as aggressive, though, as an earlier proposal to divert the creek through a larger "mitigation bank" to cleanse the creek water of pollutants. The city failed to garner participation from other entities for that plan.
Had the city fulfilled its wetlands obligation somewhere else - such as along Beaver Creek - it wouldn't have provided any benefit to the lake, supporters of the Coldwater Creek plan have said.
Monday's city council meeting begins at 6 p.m., one hour earlier than usual. A private executive session is expected to begin the meeting but city officials expect to convene regular business before the regular 7 p.m. starting time, Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said.
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