A plan to put athletic fields and an outdoor learning complex near the corner of Lacy Road and Seminole Highway has been received well by alders, but logistical concerns could make the timeline difficult to accomplish.
Edgewood College hopes to make the 40-acre plot “shovel-ready” by 2021, but because it would be outside the city’s urban development boundaries, it would need to go through the city’s comprehensive plan process and a separate regional and state approval. Some alders expressed skepticism at the Sept. 10 Common Council meeting that it would be feasible.
It’s still early in the process, and there was no action planned for the meeting, only feedback to give Edgewood College officials an idea of what challenges it might face. It’s expected to return for Plan Commission and Common Council in the coming months.
The Plan Commission had told Edgewood to come back this year when the city’s comprehensive plan update was being done.
But in July, alders voted on a seven-month time frame for the comprehensive plan to be completed by the spring election, making it nearly impossible to include the Edgewood project.
That leaves alders with three options. One would be to amend the comprehensive plan to allow that kind of development in the future. Another would be to extend the seven-month timeline for finishing the plan, which was a source of contentious debate this summer.
The third would be to have Edgewood come back in 10 years to try again, an option Mary Ellen Gevelinger, interim president, said the school is not interested in.
“I must express my concern that choosing to exclude Edgewood from the 10-year update, effectively, the choice before you, would result in Edgewood backing away from this development opportunity,” she said. “I want to be clear that Edgewood is not in a position to speculate, and our offer to purchase the O’Brien property cannot be extended on the mere possibility of approval for development at some point in the future.”
There’s multiple layers to getting the development approved, including amending the comprehensive plan, including it within the city’s Future Urban Development Areas and then getting approval for sewer and water services through the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission and state Department of Natural Resources.
“There’s time for public input, there’s time for intergovernmental approvals; Edgewood can assist in that process,” Michael Guns, chief financial officer for Edgewood College, told the council. “All it takes is the political will to include the project in the plan.”
The athletic and outdoor learning complex would include baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, a soccer stadium, a track and discus and shot put rings, as well as an indoor turf facility and clubhouse. The remaining acreage would be a wetland area, maintained by Edgewood environmental science students. The fields would have the ability to hold water underneath them in case of a large rain event.
“I think it’s a good project and I don’t want to lose it,” Ald. Tom Clauder (Dist. 4) said.