Sugar Land voters approve two parks projects, reject one

By Betsy Dolan 

Sugar Land voters gave their blessing to two bond proposals in the November 5 election that would create 10-miles of hike and bike trails and develop parkland along the Brazos River with an adjacent festival site. But voters passed on a proposition that would have created a community park in Telfair .

Unofficial results show that 51% voted against Proposition 1 which called for $18.5 million to build the community park in Telfair. Proposition Two, which allocated $21.3 million to develop 128 acres along the Brazos River with a festival site passed with 53% of the vote. Proposition 3, approved by 52% of voters, called for $10.1 million for a series of connecting hike and bike trails spanning 10 miles.

“The bond election provided an opportunity for our residents to choose whether to authorize property taxes to fund parks projects”, said Mayor James Thompson. “The vote reaffirms that residents believe the approved projects are important to Sugar Land’s quality of life and economic prosperity.”

While the community park would have been available to all Sugar Land residents, social media sites suggests the measure may have failed because voters are hesitant to spend tax dollars on amenities in master planned communities.”I agree that the community park and hike and bike trails should have been paid for by the many developers who make buckets of cash here,” wrote one resident on Facebook.

News that Proposition Two had been approved by voters was met with excitement by groups working to develop more recreational opportunities along the Brazos River.

“When you combine the 128 acres (along the Brazos River) with the 125 acres in Memorial Park, this will truly be a recreational and green space asset for Sugar Land citizens”, said Kim Icenhower, Community Liason with Fort Bend Green.

But Sustainable Sugar Land founder, Diana Miller, who worked to defeat the three bond proposals, said voter rejection of Proposition One and a close outcome on the other two indicate there was strong opposition to the bond measures.

“We came into this issue at an extreme disadvantage as the City of Sugar Land and Citizens for Sugar Land Parks, a Special Purpose Committee with over $36,000 in primarily special interest contributions, spent thousands on “advertising””, Miller said, referring, in part, to large pro-bond signs erected at various locations around the city.

Prior to the election, Miller filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against Sugar Land City Manager, Allen Bogard, in which she accused him of violating the state election code by spending public funds for political advertising. On November 7, Miller was notified that her complaint “meets jurisdictional and form requirements for a complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.”

“We feel we will prevail in this ethics complaint and this will legitimize long standing concerns that a few special interest groups are benefiting financially at the expense of taxpayers,” Miller said.

The total bond amount approved by voters was $31.5 million with the two projects expected to be completed in five to seven years.

The proposed parks projects were recommended by a 100-member citizens’ bond committee that met from March to May.

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