Stacy Martin, Managing Editor, The Oklahoma City Sentinel

During a special election Tuesday, Edmond voters overwhelmingly approved a quarter of a cent sales tax increase to buy land abutting Hafer Park, clearing the way for it to become park land.

The proposition passed with more than 81 percent of the vote with all 31 precincts reporting. The results still have to be certified. Seventy nine percent of absentee and early mail in results were in favor too.

It will raise the city’s tax rate from 8.25% to 8.50% from for 12 months from January until year-end of 2022. It equates to 25 cents for $100 spent.

The adjusted Edmond sales tax will tie with Moore’s sales tax and will still be lower than every other city in the metro, including Oklahoma City, at 8.65%; Norman, 8.75%; Yukon, Mustang and El Reno, 8.85%; Guthrie and Del City, 9%; Midwest City,

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Lydia Lee, an Edmond attorney who headed the sales tax initiative and who has led two previous efforts to stop planned urban developments near the park in the past 15 years.

‘’Not only with the number of people who turned out – that it’s one of the highest turnouts that I can remember- but 80 percent of the people voted for it,’’ Lee said. “It’s such a thrill for all of us to bring this to the city of Edmond.

“This has been the subject of three referendum proposals. Hafer Park is so popular with both residents and non-residents. This is good for the city of Edmond to put that ugly history to rest.’’

The sales tax’s passage will allow the purchase of the land abutting Hafer Park for approximately $4 million from the current owner, SCV Development LLC. It ends the proposed developer SSLM Development and Richard McKown’s  proposal to build a $30 million plan to build high-density housing/commercial development on the tract.

Resistance to developing the land has endured for nearly two decades, Lee said. Opponents to the development have said it would have further crowded Edmond schools and would have posed greater traffic congestion in the heart of the city.

“The citizens never would have had a chance to buy it if the developer hadn’t agreed to a compromise,” said Edmond attorney Todd McKinnis,

That’s probably the last Edmond will see of this developer.

“It’d be tough for him to get excited about doing anything in Edmond,” said McKinnis.

The sales tax is expected to raise about $5 million, which will be used to buy the land at just under $4 million and also cover the closing costs of the sale, the cost of the special election, and any improvements to the park.

City councilor Josh Moore praised the voter turnout, but sees both sides of the sales tax effort, adding in an email, “I believe we have to be very careful about increasing taxes.”

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