LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — The Leander City Council took the first step to now use fees collected from residential developers to improve more than just public parks.
During their meeting on Oct. 3, council members voted 6-1 to divert a portion of the “parkland dedication fund” to the city’s public art fund.
For the past 18 years, the city charged home developers an “in-lieu-of” fee if they did not set aside enough parkland required by the subdivision ordinance. Any revenue collected from those fees went into a parkland dedication fund that the city would use to buy more land for parks or improve existing ones.
Because of the action taken last week, city leaders intend on now splitting up how they spend that money. Parks will receive 85 percent of the funding, while 15 percent will now go to pay for public art projects, like murals and sculptures.
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Czernek voted in support of this plan.
“What a great opportunity to improve and beautify our city and incorporate art into our city and around our city,” Czernek said Wednesday, “so I think it’s a way to attract pedestrians and make people feel special.”
Council Member Christine Sederquist cast the lone dissenting vote despite being the liaison to the Public Art Commission. In a statement, she told KXAN she objected because of a procedural concern.
“I voted against it because our ordinances say something like that has to go before the arts commission,” Sederquist wrote. “Our Planning & Zoning recommended it go in front of the arts commission, and council wouldn’t send it to them. What’s the point of having ordinances if we don’t follow them?”
A final vote on this ordinance change will happen at the Leander City Council meeting on Oct. 17.
The city reported that it budgets approximately $300,000 annually to the Park Dedication Fund. If the change is approved, about $45,000 of that funding will now into the public art fund.
Bonnie Soles and her family regularly use Robin Bledsoe Park. She told KXAN that she’d prefer to keep those fees only going to public park improvements.
“Parks are actually better for the family, for the residents,” Soles said. “In the future, if they continue to withhold that and make that grow, I think that’s the better thing for the community.”
The city confirmed that the park dedication fee has recently helped pay in part for improvements at Lakewood Park, the Senior Activity Center and the Bledose Park parking lot addition.