Politics & Government

What's in park bond for you?

Northern residents will get a mega-sized, regional recreation center. Greenway trails will be added, including one to Martin Luther King Park in west Charlotte. A sports plex in Matthews is getting full-funding, while the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in uptown will get extensive renovations.

The projects, recommended by the park and recreation commission, are among 60 that could be paid for with a bond package this fall of up to $250 million.

The projects won't be spelled out on the November ballot, but county commissioners and other leaders will use the list to drum up support for the bond package. A public hearing is set for the Sept. 3 commissioners meeting. Commissioners also will vote that night on the final size of the bond package.

Scott McClure, chairman of the park and rec commission, told commissioners recently the plan has been well received by residents across the county. The mayors of Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville also have lent their support.

But some residents are likely to push for changes. The Charlotte Tennis Association, for example, wants money to build a 20-plus court tennis center and to hire a director of tennis for the county.

And there is still some concern about whether the county should even ask voters to approve a bond package in light of the economy and the county's mounting debt load.

This spring, County Manager Harry Jones had recommended asking voters for $560.2 million worth of county bonds, including $360.2 million for a new jail. That would join $227.2 million in roads, neighborhood development and affordable housing bonds from the city of Charlotte.

Concern about the size of the local bond slate prompted county leaders to decide to pay for the new jail using debt that doesn't require voter approval. Commissioners then agreed to increase the size of the park bonds to no more than $250 million.

Commissioner Dan Bishop has said he thinks the bond package is unaffordable, and noted it is more than three times the size of the last referendum for parks.

Commissioners can decide to reduce the size of the bond package, but some say they expect to ask voters for the full $250 million.

Among the proposed projects for the bond is $25 million for a regional sports plex in Matthews, a project commissioner Bill James has championed. An original list of bond projects didn't list the sports plex.

James, whose district includes the sports plex, said Sunday he thinks the new list of parks projects better distributes the bond money across the county instead focusing on those areas closest to uptown. “It's fair,” James said.