Changes to city code in Battle Ground that would allow for the implementation of a new parks plan will come up for a vote later this month.
During its March 6 meeting, the Battle Ground City Council listened to a presentation on the process, with the biggest change being more recreational area requirements for new development.
The changes will allow the city to take action on its parks, recreation and open space plan, which was first drafted last year.
When approved, the code changes will repeal the entirety of the existing parks, recreation and open space chapter and will replace it with a new one of the same name that features different sections.
“We want to make sure that we’re getting an adequate amount of parks, particularly when residential development comes in,” Battle Ground Community Development Director Sam Crummett said during a Nov. 7 council meeting.
Later that month, Crummett told the council the city needed additional legal review of the changes. At the March 6 meeting, he said the additional review was generally focused on how much the city could legally require from developers.
The code changes would require any new development to include one acre of parks for every 100 residential units that are built. It also requires the developer of a subdivision to look at the city’s map for planned parks to see if a smaller neighborhood park or larger community park are needed, Crummett previously said. If so, the developer has to talk with the city as to what their share of work would be to develop the park.
Crummett said a large development, like the already-approved 424-lot B & G subdivision, would have been required to develop a neighborhood park if it had been subjected to the code changes.
“The goal is that the developer would need to help build our facilities,” Crummett said.
He noted the city can only require the developer to build what is legally proportional.
“We can’t have the developer fix our city issues, but they should and can build what their fair share is,” Crummett said.
In exchange for help on neighborhood parks, developers would be eligible to receive park impact fee credits, Crummett said.
If there isn’t a specific need for the larger parks, a developer would still need to put in one or more “pocket parks.” They would also have to build pedestrian trails if the project abuts another area with trails or if it falls into the city’s regional trails network, Crummett said.
Any multifamily development has to set 15% of the site aside for active park use, Crummett said. That could either be outdoor open space or something like an indoor recreation room.
Prior code allowed for trails and open space in lieu of parks, Crummett said.
“We found a lot of developments were just putting in trails and open space,” Crummett said.
The code changes to implement the parks plan will also call for more creativity in what developers put in.
“If you don’t have a code that requires it, you can’t force the issue,” Crummett said.
To identify where new neighborhood parks are needed, the plan outlined a half-mile “walkshed” from residences to the closest neighborhood park, Crummett said at the March meeting. Based on a map showing the walkshed, the northwest quadrant of the city features the largest area served by existing parks.
Mayor Philip Johnson questioned some of the past contributions of developers when it came to building parks.
“That, sir, is what they used to have at McDonalds,” Johnson said about one park on the northeast side of the city, referring to the fast food chain’s PlayPlace structures.
Crummett said prior developments often opted to build trails and open space instead of elaborate play structures since the requirements allowed that option.
“Under our existing code, this is as much as we could negotiate,” Crummett said.
Johnson said he has been disappointed over the years with what development has brought in terms of parks.
“We are letting children down. We are letting families down,” Johnson said.
Battle Ground City Manager Erin Erdman said the current process would address the needs the community saw during a city visioning process, which was conducted in 2019. The city had not done an overhaul of its parks plan for decades.
“Our problem is we went 20 years without re-evaluating the needs,” Erdman said.
Crummett said he would prepare an ordinance on the code changes for the council to approve at its meeting on March 20.