by Heather Tomlinson
City officials are looking to convert 40 acres of undeveloped land just north of Somerset into an economic boon, thanks to a recently approved contract with a private developer.
During Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting, a resolution was read that would allow the city to enter into a long-term lease with Neal Haney, who had previously put forward a proposal to develop a recreational vehicle, or RV, park on the city’s property located directly adjacent to SomerSplash Waterpark.
“We’ve been looking at ways to improve our water park, improve the economic development of the City of Somerset,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during the meeting.
The city has carried out one lengthy public work session over the possible development.
“The city council did ask a lot of tough questions,” said Girdler.
The city sought public bids last year. Haney’s bid was the only one offered, and Girdler said the city has been working to secure the lease details for around a year.
Girdler said the park will require between $500,000 and $1 million in investment, none of which will come from the city.
According to the resolution, read by Somerset City Attorney Carrie Wiese, Haney will be responsible for all of the upkeep and maintenance for the park.
“(The) developer intends to clear, clean, and maintain the parcel at his/her own expense, including making improvements which shall include, but is not limited to, the laying of utility lines, the creation of camping areas and RV pads, and the creation of recreational common areas for camping and outdoor activities ...”
The resolution further states that the geographical characteristics of the 40-acre plot require that any development there be recreational or rural.
The resolution states the intent to use the land as an RV park, “ ... with recreational activity areas, including a possible walking/running trail, community shelter/common areas, utility infrastructure, and any other park oriented development that would complement the current water park and the baseball fields to which the undeveloped property is adjacent to, all at a very minimal cost or risk to the City of Somerset.”
Wiese said bids were advertised publicly because city officials at that point weren’t sure what direction the development there should take.
“We couldn’t ask for sealed bids because we didn’t know what we wanted to put there,” said Wiese during the meeting.
The lease is a 20-year contract, with two additional 5-year automatic renewals after that for a total of 30 years. The resolution states that Haney will pay the city $10,000 yearly as per the lease.
“We’re not out any money at all,” said Councilor Pat Bourne.
Girdler said the popularity of RV parks led them to accept Haney’s proposal.
“It appears there’s a lot of RV fans throughout this area,” said Girdler.
Girdler also thanked the council for moving forward with the development.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the city council for your diligence, hard work, your commitment to our city and looking for new ideas and new ways of utilizing our property,” said Girdler.
The council, minus an absent Donna Hunley, voted unanimously to approve the resolution.