Ogden residents clamor for park space; council to look closer into school country issue | News, Sports, Jobs

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

The grounds of the former Grandview Elementary School in Ogden, photographed Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. Steve Van Wagoner of Ogden is pushing the city to incorporate the land into Ogden’s park system.

OGDEN — After hearing from around 30 speakers, most of them urging the city to preserve four largely vacant parcels of Ogden School District land as green space, the Ogden City Council has stepped back from a proposal to acquire the land for home development.

Instead, the City Council approved a resolution at the body’s meeting on Tuesday declaring the city’s intent to buy the land from the school district pending more study into how the land might be used and potential funding sources to cover the acquisition cost. The city neither committed to buying the land nor to using it for any particular purpose, whether home development or as park space.

“That buys you some additional time,” said Glenn Symes, senior policy analyst for the Ogden City Council. The measure gives council members 90 days “to have a conversation about what the best funding source is, what the right use of the property is.”

The four parcels, declared surplus property by the school district last September, measure 18.6 acres and between them have an appraised value of $4.22 million. The land includes the ex-Grandview Elementary site at 3875 Jackson Ave., the ex-Lynn Elementary property at 625 Grant Ave. and two adjacent parcels in the 500 and 600 blocks of Jackson Avenue.

The city has first dibs on acquiring the land before the school district puts it on the open market and the administration of Mayor Mike Caldwell had proposed acquiring the ex-Lynn Elementary property and Jackson Avenue parcels for development into housing.

The sentiment of those addressing the City Council on Tuesday was clear and leaned in a different direction. Most of those speaking were affiliated with Ogden Soccer, a local soccer club, and most of them called on the city to acquire the land so it can be converted into sports fields or other public open space.

Steve Van Wagoner, who helps lead Ogden Soccer and has spearheaded efforts to preserve the land, thinks there’s an opportunity for the city to acquire the land in collaboration with private citizens and donors. “Do not let funding come before the value of our people,” he said.

As public debate on the issue has surged, Ben Nadolski, chairperson of the City Council, said he and council member Luis Lopez have been approached by “anchor community partners” interested in potentially teaming with the city in investigating use of the country and how to buy it

After the council’s 7-0 vote, Lopez indicated he shares the sentiment he heard at the meeting, that “we need more open space, we need more parks.”

At any rate, work remains, Nadolski said. Though most of those addressing the City Council on Tuesday were affiliated with Ogden Soccer, he said there’s need for space for softball, volleyball and other sports.

“It’s on every family’s mind, so we’ve got work to do,” Nadolski said. “If not these properties, which ones? If not here, where? If not now, when?”

The proposal from Caldwell to acquire a portion of the school property for housing development stems in part from the dire need for more housing in Ogden and across the Wasatch Front. Council member Marcia White alluded to the housing issue.

“We need (housing). We’re going to need it. We’re growing and it’s inevitable,” she said. The public outcry for more green space, though, gives city officials another avenue to consider.

Per Tuesday’s resolution, the city has 90 days to investigate next steps in the process. If officials decide they definitely want to buy some or all of the land, the city would have to provide the school district with “earnest money,” Symes said. Barring any action before the 90-day period ends, the school district could put the land up for sale on the open market.

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