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2022: A look at the year that was

Winding down the final month of 2022 as we head into 2023, now is a traditional time of reflection. It’s often a period when people take a look at the changes they want to make in their lives ahead of setting resolutions for the new year.

In retrospect, 2022 was a year marked by change for Derby – some big, immediate changes and some coming down the road.

While the path is still being cleared for development, the City Council voted to move forward with the STAR bond project’s final phase which will see the creation of an outdoor adventure complex – with a manmade lagoon as its focal attraction. More immediately, Derby was also proclaimed as a Purple Heart City in 2022 – a tribute to the veteran community.

Outside of the STAR bond district, the groundwork was laid for the evolution of local recreation with the city adopting a new Parks Master Plan and the Derby Recreation Commission beginning an aquatics study. Derby Fire & Rescue also celebrated its 70th anniversary and continued evolution.

Lasting memories will have to lesson the blow of some unfortunate change, like the community losing art icon John Parsons – though his bronze statutes remain as a testament to his legacy in Derby.

The more things change, the more things stay the same in some cases – and Derby sports is a testament to that. Once again, the Panthers racked up success on the field, court or wherever they roamed.

Informer staff has been reflecting back on our top stories from 2022, collected within these pages, and that theme of change holds true. Change is likely to come in the year ahead, too, so here’s to making the most of that change in 2023!

YEAR IN REVIEW: STAR bond final phase gets green light

After a decision was pushed back from late 2021, Derby got a seasonly-appropriate answer on the projected final phase of the STAR bond project in May 2022. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the project moving forward – which includes construction of a man-made lagoon as its central feature.

Following council approval, Derby Designation Development has been moving forward with work on the proposed project to include a lagoon and indoor water park, hotel, glamping site, apartments and more, with a preliminary plat approved in October. The featured amenities will primarily be located on a site directly northeast of the Derby Target store (near the intersection of Tall Tree and Rock Road).

The focal lagoon feature will allow for multiple aquatic activities including scuba diving, wind surfing, snorkeling, paddle boarding and more. While there was discussion of an outdoor portion being heated year-round as well, Derby Destination Development attorney Marc Abbott reported that element was cost prohibitive and limited to the indoor park in the final development plan.

Restaurant/commercial development pads are also part of the final phase project, with Derby Destination Development announcing plans to bring a steakhouse to the development ahead of final approval. However, given the delays in getting official approval, some pieces of the plan did change slightly.

Pads for restaurant/commercial development – where the steakhouse would be located – were moved to the northern portion of the STAR bond district by Rock Regional Hospital. Meanwhile, the previously-approved ROKC Derby rock climbing facility (part of the second STAR bond amendment) would shift farther south and be adjacent to the new adventure sports complex and lagoon.

For the final proposal, Derby Destination Development requested approximately $32.25 million in new STAR bonds (as compared to $41.8 million previously). The project also includes an approximate total of $130.37 million in new capital investment, versus the $166.2 million originally proposed. That’s a 25% public investment versus 75% private, well above the 50/50 split required by state statues.

Members of the public voiced concerns regarding the final phase project through the approval process, but ultimately in weighing the positives against the negatives the council saw more potential benefits and voted in favor.

“We have an opportunity to take advantage of some incentives that the state has given us, and I think that’s kind of a big deal. I think it’s a big deal if we turn that down,” said council member Chris Unkel. “If we’ve got somebody who’s willing to invest money, I believe we let them invest that money.”

– Information from this article was originally published in the May 18, 2022 edition of The Derby Informer.