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Voters say 'no thanks' to Farmington's recreational referendums

The waterpark and new ball fields will have to wait as voters, for the fourth time since 1997, turned down a recreational referendum in the city of Farmington.

Mayor Todd Larson said the $12.3 million decision was up to voters and he accepts the outcome.

"It was too big for the council to decide," he said. "It needs to be in the hands of the people."

The referendum was narrowly defeated with 5,753 "no" votes to 5,172 "yes" votes.

Voters had two questions on the ballot, the first one asked for $10 million to develop an aquatic facility on Jim Bell Park and Preserve, as well as ball fields, athletic fields, an expanded trail system, community play areas, an outdoor refrigerated ice hockey rink and lighting near the existing Schmitz-Maki Arena.

The second question was contingent on the first one passing. This was a compromise between the sports groups and the council, as the council wanted to cap the cost at $10 million, but the athletic interests were concerned that the projects would not be completed without an extra $2.3 million.

The second question had 6,197 "no" votes and 4,597 "yes" votes.

The estimated annual tax increase on a 2016 median value home of $212,787 if both questions passed, would have been $102 for 20 years.

"We placed it on the ballot for the voters to decide whether recreation should be decided by a public or private investor," Councilman Doug Bonar said.

The vote may have been affected by the city's decision to raise taxes four years in a row, something the council said is necessary to pay down its debt. A 2015 survey inferred that the tax increases had caused homeowners, whose taxes make up 75 percent of the city's revenue, as "property tax hostile."