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Carlsbad to move forward with park plan

CARLSBAD — City Council members voted unanimously at their Sept. 28 meeting to move forward on the next phases of Carlsbad’s long-awaited Alga Norte Park, a project of high community interest.
Council voted 4-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Ann Kulchin absent, to revisit and solidify the development plans for the park complex, which has been a hot topic at Carlsbad’s recent candidate forums. The vote does not approve immediate construction of the park.
Because the project has been on hold due to the national recession, city staff will now conduct a code compliance review to make sure the plans reflect the city’s current codes. It is expected to take one to two months and cost $15,000, Assistant City Manager John Coates said.
An Operating Impact Study to determine revenue and expenditures of the 32-acre park slated for construction on the northwest corner of Poinsettia Lane and Alicante Road should be completed by early January, Coates said.
This sets the process in motion to have the plans ready for bids and construction, Coates said.
Park plans include an aquatic center with a competition pool and therapy pools; three baseball fields; a dog park; a skate park; and a playground. Water slides and a “lazy river” have been phased out of the first wave of construction, Coates said.
Although construction funds for Alga Norte have been set aside by voter approval since 2002, City Council has been hesitant to move forward on the project without a guarantee to cover operating expenses without using reserve funds.
Assistant Finance Director Kevin Branca told council on Tuesday that the city’s 10-year budget forecast — with recent fire and police pension negotiations included — could accommodate the project’s operating costs come fiscal year 2013-2014.
Councilmen Matt Hall and Mark Packard have been staunch supporters of holding off on the project in the past. However, they said they felt confident in the city’s ability to take on operating costs with the new budget forecast.
“We do see the lines going in the right direction,” Hall said. “I’m ready to move forward.”
Councilman and current mayoral candidate Keith Blackburn had the item added to the meeting agenda. Construction of the park has been a main focus in his campaign. “This is the next compromise leading to the construction of the park,” he said.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of the park project during public comment, citing a number of reasons why the city should get the ball rolling on the complex.
“Alga Norte is a fantastic project that meets the needs of the community,” former city employee Jim Torretto said. “It was important then (in 2002) and it’s important now.”