GF City Commission Swaps Kranz Park Land, Tryon Lone ‘No’ Vote

Editors note: E-City Beat has requested and received permission to copy and paste Great Falls City Commissioner Rick Tryon’s reports from his public commissioner’s Facebook page, ‘Rick Tryon for a Greater Great Falls’.

“At Tuesday’s (1/19/21) City Commission meeting the commission voted 4 – 1 to approve a land swap between the City of Great Falls and the Great Falls Public School District.

I was the lone dissenting vote.

The land swap is briefly described in the agenda packet as follows:

“The District will exchange a 10 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Seibel Soccer Park, referred to as the Loy land, for City property that includes the 6 most easterly lots of Kranz Park. Both properties have been valued to be like kind with equal or greater value of approximately $150,000. The City and the School District accept such valuation and consideration.”

You can find further the details of the proposed swap in the agenda packet here.

The reasons for City staff recommendation to proceed with the exchange are listed in the packet as follow:

1. The GFPS commenced the land swap process with the City in good faith. Staff believes the City should honor the District’s efforts and complete the exchange.

2. There are concerns by residents about parking around Great Falls High School. The swap demonstrates a willingness of the City to assist the school district with addressing the problem, which from time to time, requires City intervention.

3. Even though the City will not immediately use the exchanged property, or even has specific plans for it at this time, staff encourages the Commission to consider future options for the site that are complementary to long range park plans.

a) As the City grows eastwardly, the area is underserved by park and green space.

b) Utilization of the existing soccer complex is considerable. It is easy to recognize need in the future for additional recreation space, practice and/or play fields.

4. The School District has been previously approached by other private parties interested in purchasing this property adjacent to the Great Falls Soccer Complex. If the property was sold and eventually developed, it is unlikely that the City would be able acquire the parcel at a later date for expanded recreational opportunities as described above.

5. As indicated by the District, it does not have discretionary funds, other than the value of the property being swapped, to pay the City directly for the Kranz Park lots and commence parking area improvements.

I didn’t vote against the trade because I oppose 10 additional acres of City park or a parking lot for GFHS. My reasons for opposition to the land swap were these:

1. The commission was not provided with any analysis or estimates as to the cost of maintaining and developing 10 more acres of City park land, which will have to be mowed, weeded, watered, kept clean etc. or where the money would come from to maintain or develop the property.

I think we owe the taxpayers a better explanation as to how and why we’re spending their money.

2. The commission was not proved with a complete, professional appraisal of the taxpayer’s Kranz Park property before the swap was voted on, only a Cadastral card which is not good enough in my enough in my opinion. A professional appraisal was provided to the commission for the District’s property.

3. Neighborhood Council #9, the neighborhood surrounding Kranz Park, did not vote on the land swap as presented at Tuesday’s public hearing. While the NHC vote is not required, we should have heard from the folks in that neighborhood through their NHC before approving the swap.

I didn’t hear any compelling reasons as to why the land swap was an urgent matter. I argued that we should wait and hold the public hearing and vote after we had more time to gather information, 4 – 6 weeks at the most.

I think your City Commission owes you a more deliberative process than was delivered in this case.

You can watch the video of the public hearing and vote here.”

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