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The Daily Tar Heel

Town Council Approves Using Part of Bond Money for Parks

The Chapel Hill Town Council approved the allocation of funds from a $20 million Orange County bond package Monday night to finance a joint parks and recreation project.

At its regular business meeting, the Town Council made minor adjustments to a policy proposal, which addresses the Joint Parks and Open Spaces Projects resolution, and then approved it.

Included in the resolution is approval of a 70-acre Southern Community Park that would occupy a large section of woodland located in Southern Village, a mixed-use development located at the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Dogwood Acre Drive. Officials hope the park will help the town preserve natural areas and provide local schools with recreational facilities through a sharing process.

Crafted by an Inter-Governmental Task Force, the resolution details the way county funds can be used for parks and open space projects within Chapel Hill, focusing first on Southern Community Park. The task force, composed of members from both the Town Council and the Orange County Commissioners, was created in April 2000. The task force requested that $18.9 million of the $20 million bond package passed by residents on Nov. 6, 2001, be allocated by the county for the joint project. The new resolution authorizes Mayor Kevin Foy and council member Bill Strom to work with the task force to develop guidelines for the usage of the funds.

The draft policy states the need for collaboration among Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough and Orange County for certain parks and recreation initiatives if Orange County allocates the requested $18.9 million for the project. "The proposal will eventually come back (to the Town Council), but now it is completely in the hands of the Inter-Governmental Work Group," said Bill Stockard, assistant to the Chapel Hill town manager.

In addition to serving as public space, the Southern Community Park also will be utilized by nearby schools for recreational activities.

Neil Pedersen, superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the cooperation between government bodies will result in positive output. "The idea of partnership and collaboration is an old concept but often works well," he said.

Many officials said the collaborative work effort between the council and commissioners is a step in the right direction. "I think it's very appropriate that the county commissioners be involved," said council member Jim Ward. "I've really enjoyed working with them."

But Ward cautions that with such a large group, the logistics involved can be difficult. "There is a layer of communication that will take some patience, but it will allow everyone the opportunity to provide input," he said.

Robert Broad, a member of the Chapel Hill's Parks and Recreation Commission, also stressed how difficult it would be working with two different government agencies. "There are always challenges when you are working with two different entities, and it is going to take some time to work through it."

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