The town attorney and deputy clerk-treasurer cautioned against it, but members of the Huntertown Council agreed unanimously on Friday to deed more than 27 acres to Friends of the Huntertown Park Inc.
Attorney David Hawk said there were other options such as a contract or lease agreement where the town retained ownership of the property, but the parks non-profit board would oversee the development of the property.
The park property consists of more than 27 acres on Woods Road, just off Old State Road 3.
Deputy clerk-treasurer Janine Rudolph said she was told by two officials of the State Board of Accounts that there were no towns in Indiana that did not own their own park property.
Dan Holmes, president of Friends of the Huntertown Park Inc., said time was of the essence and he had already attended four meetings and he was led to believe the matter was settled.
I dont care how it happens, but it needs to happen tonight, Holmes said.
At a previous meeting, Holmes said that it was hard to solicit donations because donors were leery of who actually owned the property and whether or not it would remain a park. Much of the suspicion stemmed from a council proposal two years ago to build a wastewater treatment plant on a 4-acre section within the boundaries of the park.
Council members eventually changed their minds and are now hoping to build the $11.2 million plant on Hathaway Road.
The proposal was denied by the Department of Environmental Management in October and Huntertown has filed an appeal.
The deed stipulates that if the park board dissolves or the park fails, the property will automatically revert back to the town.
Hawk said there were several pitfalls with deeding over the property, including: the property would likely become taxable; the park organization would not have the authority to apply and receive grants; the park would have to pay its own insurance; and the town might not like what the parks plans were, but would be powerless.
You may have a grander vision, but you would have absolutely no control, Hawk said.
Restrictive covenants that limit the property to park use only or leasing the land for one dollar a year and appointing a parks and recreation board was a better way to go, he said.
Holmes said he did not want to work under contract to the town, or have to create another new board, which would slow things down by adding more bureaucracy and governmental red tape.
We can raise more money on our own, Holmes said.
Councilwoman Pat Freck said she was receiving different information and she was in favor of delaying a decision.
I dont see things changing in the next two weeks and we have been talking about this for some time, Holmes said.
Pushed to vote, Freck hesitated and then voted with the others to deed over the land.
Holmes and his board have already raised $100,000 in donations and the park board is launching a capital campaign to raise an additional $100,000.
Holmes had asked the town to match the donations, dollar for dollar, but Rudolph said there was not enough money in the general fund to do so.
Some council members were in favor of using money from a recent land sale on Johnson Road, but that money will revert back to the Huntertown Utility Service Board, Rudolph said.
Plans for the park include a playground, four picnic areas, walking and bicycling paths, amphitheater, pavilion and wooded pathways.