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Franklin Township debates park options
Oct. 13, 2014

By Gabe Licht

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN – Plans are in the works to create a park in Franklin Township. Where that park will be and who the township may partner with to create it led to a lengthy debate at the Franklin Township Board meeting Monday evening.

History of the park conversation
Wright County currently has $114,000 in park-dedicated funds available for a park in Franklin Township, unless Franklin Township opts for the county to use it in another township. Those funds are collected from developers anytime Wright County provides planning and zoning for developments outside of city limits. Of those funds, 25 percent can be spent anywhere in the county, while the remaining 75 percent is to be used in the township where the development is created, unless the township allows that money to be spent elsewhere.

Franklin Township created a parks subcommittee to research and review options. One option is a 12-acre property near the intersection of Farmington Avenue Southeast and Wright County Road 17, owned by the Delano Sportsmen’s Club. Another option, 33 acres across from the Delano Water Treatment Plant, is owned by a private party, but the city of Delano is trying to acquire the property and would like to work with Franklin Township in a joint park venture.

Park subcommittee member Wally Johnson said Delano City Planner Al Brixius is doing an analysis of that property which will be reviewed by the Delano Park and Recreation Commission and the Franklin Township Board.

Reactions to the options
About 20 residents attended the board meeting, with many voicing opposition to working with the city.

When asked why the township was looking at funding a city park, and how the city could have a park without owning the property, Supervisor Dewayne Bauman said, “They don’t have to come to us for annexation.”

John Tackaberry was one individual who vocally opposed working with the city.

“Why is Franklin Township using the name Delano?” Tackaberry asked. “Why is the city wasting Delano taxpayer dollars (on the analysis) if this is about Franklin Township? You shouldn’t do anything with Delano.”

Johnson classified the Sportsmen’s Club property as substandard land, saying that his property across the river “is under water quite a bit.”

“The county didn’t say the 33-acre parcel was better,” Supervisor Dewayne Bauman said, adding later that he believes all the property in question is in the flood plain.

Bill McMullen suggested having an open mind.

“If the city comes forward with ideas that knock our socks off, let’s consider it,” he said.

Johnson suggested looking at both options and putting it to a vote.

“The citizens elected the board to know what the citizens want,” Tackaberry said. “To take the second option, where we’re losing control, is not a viable option.”

Township Clerk Denise Olson noted that, when township residents were asked during an election what they would like in a park, the most common responses were for simple features like a canoe launch and a gazebo.

“I sense a lot of emotion between Delano and Franklin Township,” Litfin said. “I didn’t know it was such a hot-button topic. What’s your vision?”

“We want it to be short, sweet, simple and rural,” Bauman said. “That’s what was voted on.”

Moving forward
At an earlier meeting, the Franklin Township Board had approved $4,000 for the SGA Group to create a proposal for the 12-acre park option.

They voted 3-0 to ask SGA to add three things to the proposal, based on recommendations from Mark Mattice of the Wright County Parks Department.

One is historical water readings on the south fork of the Crow River in relation to the land elevation, to determine the potential of seasonal flooding. Secondly, the individuals creating the proposal should have a kickoff meeting so they can have an understanding of potential features the township wants included in the park. Finally, a soil suitability survey should be completed to show what types of soils are present, what it can support and how it could affect possible costs in the future.

“The city is doing its own study for the other property,” Olson said.

Odds and ends
In other business, the board

• discussed parking in Krienkeville. A resident has received two citations for how he parked in the area. Franklin Township Deputy Clerk Stephanie Russek is working with the Wright County Attorney’s Office to resolve the situation.

• showed support for Litfin moving property identifications from two parcels to two other parcels. The final decision will be made at the county level.

• discussed a Rural Planned Unit Development District and Conditional Use Permit for a seven-lot platted residential subdivision that would connect 44th Street near Big Woods Addition and White Birch Acres. The road has been approved, but development plans have not. That project requires a preconstruction meeting with members of the Franklin Township Board present; which is tentatively slated to take place in early November.

• discussed the possibility of establishing a fire advisory board with the Delano Fire Department that could give Franklin Township more of a voice regarding items such as equipment purchases. The township currently has a similar agreement with Watertown.

• decided to ask a resident who had scraped gravel from a township road for his driveway to pay $250 to replace the gravel.

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