Land swap parcels submitted to TOPS committee


Mount Muscoco overlook, one of the Broadmoor-owned parcels, is included in the city's proposed land swap deal. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mount Muscoco overlook, one of the Broadmoor-owned parcels, is included in the city's proposed land swap deal.

Two open space advocates have submitted applications to the Trails Open Space and Parks Working Committee for parcels included in the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor, the first step in using dedicated tax money to acquire the properties outright rather than trade Strawberry Fields open space for them.

The submission was made today by Richard Skorman, former vice mayor, and Kent Obee, former chair of the TOPS committee and Parks Advisory Board. Their letter is below.

The idea is to have the TOPS Working Committee conduct thorough research of the parcels for acquisition, which is required by the TOPS tax initiative and something that hasn't happened yet, Skorman says.

If land is purchased using TOPS money, it can't be sold without voter approval, he says.

Since the city already owns Strawberry Fields, a 189-acre open space tract that's the most controversial piece in the land swap proposal, Skorman isn't sure how the working committee would proceed, but if approved by the committee for ownership, TOPS money could be used to build restrooms, signage and trail heads.

Since the city is considering swapping Strawberry Fields for other land, Skorman notes, "You could say it's on the market." Which leaves the door open for a TOPS designation as a priority "acquisition."

"The TOPS Working Committee is the front line advisory group charges with coming up with priorities and then recommending those to the Parks Advisory Board," he says. The committee also can oppose a staff recommendation, he adds. "Having served on all three boards [TOPS committee, Parks Advisory Board and City Council], I thought it was the one that could represent the citizens the most."

The only parcel not included in the series of applications to TOPS Working Committee is the nine-acre tract across from Bear Creek Park, for which an application to acquire has already been submitted by someone else.

The TOPS Working Committee meets at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, tomorrow, at 1401 Recreation Way.

The letter:
Dear TOPS Working Committee:

Enclosed are applications to the TOPS Working Committee from Kent Obee and Richard Skorman for all of the Broadmoor Land Swap areas. Richard is also requesting that you look at purchasing Strawberry Fields as well. Kent did not want to put his name on that request.

We understand that until now, the TOPS Working Committee will only be getting a presentation about the "swap" and will not be asked to weigh in or evaluate these properties. As former members of the TOPS Working Committee (Open Space Liasons from the Park Board), we understand the tremendous value you bring to the discussion regarding all the "trade" properties and easements that the Broadmoor is offering,

First, this is what you do. You have evaluated many other similar types of requests and you are the only Citizens Advisory Group tasked with looking in depth at these types of land transactions. When we were both on Park Board and Richard on City Council, we always found the background work and opinions of the TOPS Working Committee to be valuable in helping me make a good decision.

Second, unlike the two other decision making bodies, Park Board and Council, you are required to do a site visit to all properties in which you are interested in pursuing.

Third, you can look at these properties for their true value as they relate to other priorities for TOPS funding.

Fourth, you will be another decision-making body to receive public input and allow the public to ask for more detailed information before you make a recommendation to Park Board.

Finally, if the "land swap" doesn't go through, then you can hit the ground running to investigate, prioritize and negotiate fair market value for these parcels and easements to make sure that the ones you deem valuable are purchased and made available to the public as soon as possible.

Regarding Strawberry Fields, Richard is requesting a TOPS purchase of that land (maybe for a dollar) for the following reasons:

First, Strawberry Fields should be evaluated and prioritized like any other TOPS candidate for its true open space and recreational value to the City.

Second, if Strawberry Fields is purchased with TOPS money, only trails, bathrooms and parking areas could be built on the property and the property could only be sold by a vote of the people.

Third, TOPS Open Space Stewardship monies could be used for public infrastructure and cleanup without having to use general fund Park monies if the deal doesn't go through.

Finally, if the TOPS Working Committee made Strawberry Fields a priority, that would initiate a public master planning process for Strawberry Fields that could include handicap access, public areas and trails that the whole community could enjoy.

Thank you for allowing us to make these formal applications. We understand that you need these in order to evaluate and prioritize these parcels and easements. We know we are not on your formal agenda but Richard will be at your meeting tomorrow, March 2, to present them in person, either during the "Announcements" or the "Citizen's Discussion" portion of your agenda. Kent Obee will be out of town.

Thanks for all you do,

Richard Skorman and Kent Obee 

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