UPDATE Jan. 24, 2019: Anthem Community Council voted unanimously last night to approve the $1.87 million project, which if all goes well will be completed by the end of this year. You can check out all the details of the costs in the ACC board’s agenda. Our recent story about the project, below, remains as initially published on Jan. 17.
After more than a decade considering a possible dog park, Anthem Community Council is expected to review and approve final design and cost estimates for one at its Jan. 23 meeting. The seven-member board already approved a preliminary estimate of $1.87 million for design and construction and expressed unanimous support for the project.
As word of the cost estimate circulated last month, at least 15 residents voiced opposition to the project on the Anthem News Facebook page, ranging from “We don’t need a dog park” and “That is a lot of money for a dog park” to “This is utterly preposterous!”
At council meetings, however, the vast majority of the dozens of residents who have seen the plans and weighed in on the park have spoken in favor.
Given that 38 percent of Maricopa County homes have licensed dogs, ACC staff estimates about 3,800 homes in Anthem have a dog. In resident input and feedback to ACC, a dog park has over the years been the No. 1 choice among master-planned project proposals, said Community Executive Officer Neal Shearer.
Like pickleball courts or the waterpark, the dog park isn’t just about those who will use it, proponents say. Other new, large master-planned communities that compete with Anthem for home buyers all have dog parks, Shearer said.
“The value of homes is what my concern is,” said Terry Mullarkey, ACC vice president, who added that he does not own a dog. “This to me is a worthwhile enhancement, and we want to do it right.”
Who Pays For It?
Design and construction will will be funded by the ACC enhancement fund, fed by a quarter-percent fee on home sales. Pulling in an average of roughly $750,000 in each of the past five years, according to ACC staff, it funded other master-plan projects, including the pickleball courts ($826,000), the recent community center remodel ($992,000) and Opportunity Way Park ($2.65 million)
Maintenance and operation for new facilities does typically impact the general operating budget, fed primarily by resident assessments. (By virtue of various cost-cutting measures, ACC assessments have not risen since a $6 increase in 2014, but council has said a hike is likely in 2020 or 2021, for multiple reasons. Dog park maintenance will come primarily from the general operating budget, possibly to be partially offset by user fees, Shearer said.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, one proponent pointed out that there are many facilities in Anthem that are used by only certain groups.
“There are a lot of us who don’t have kids, and a lot of us who don’t use the parks that already exist,” she said. “I don’t use the soccer fields. But I will use the dog park. It shouldn’t just be the people who use the dog park who pay for it.”
For comparison, the recently opened Pinnacle Dog Park, a City of Phoenix project at the Reach 11 facility near Black Mountain Blvd. and the 101, south of Pinnacle High School, cost $2.2 million for design and construction, according to city park’s spokesperson Gregg Bach.
The city’s dozen dog parks are among its most popular amenities, Bach said.
Pinnacle is somewhat similar to Anthem’s plans, Shearer said. But Pinnacle has only three cells.
Anthem’s four-cell design will allow one cell each for small and large dogs to be open at all times, with rotations that allow turf recovery. Anyone who has used Phoenix’s Deem Hills two-cell dog park, northeast of Happy Valley Road and 51st Avenue, knows the beating the turf takes. That park is mostly a dirt lot.
The dog park in Anthem, landscaped with trees and shrubs typical to other facilities, will include few frills. It will be lighted and gated with controlled access limited to Anthem residents. Plans call for shade features, benches, water fountains for humans and dogs, and dog-waste bags. No restroom is planned.
“We want to keep costs down,” Mullarkey said. But the decision to go with four cells was in anticipation of heavy use, he said, and to “make sure that we don’t make a foolish decision on some small-dollar amount that would reduce use in the future.”
During the process of soliciting bids, ACC learned the construction costs (excluding design) for several dog parks around the Valley. Among them, a three-cell park in Fountain Hills cost $3 million to revamp in 2009. Other dog parks, built with additional amenities, had even higher costs.
The cost of Anthem’s project is impacted by a strong construction market and rising labor and material costs, Shearer said, as well as the extensive preparation required on the hard ground. An underground drainage system and a 6-inch sand base are needed to help ensure healthy grass.
The park will be constructed along Meridian Drive, east of St. Rose church and Merrill Gardens on the far east side of the community. Completion is tentatively targeted for the end of this year.
ACC Board of Directors Meeting
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 23
Anthem Civic Building
3701 W. Anthem Way