On Monday September 16 at 6:30 p.m. our Mayor and City Council will vote on two controversial items.
The first is whether to approve the final plans of an affordable workforce apartment complex located on a landlocked parcel of land behind the patio homes on Elk Street South. Fourteen years ago this land was zoned for an apartment building, but since then, the adjacent properties have developed and have changed the character of the neighborhood and now an apartment building does not fit according to the City’s own guide for urban development.
This proposal consists of two 36 unit three story apartment buildings with individual apartments size 12 percent below code. There is no elevator and only one 24 foot wide driveway leading in and out. The developer has admitted he will not participate in the Belle Plaine Police Department’s Crime Free Multi Housing Program. A Councilman stated that our Fire Department will not fight a fire at this complex from the parking lot, but rather stay over 200 feet away on Elk Street!
Is this a reasonable, common sense proposal for our City leaders to approve? We have submitted a petition with 169 signatures saying it is not. If this proposal could be proposed as a public referendum, it would overwhelmingly fail.
However, if the City leaders do approve this final proposal, there will be a public hearing at the same Sep 16 meeting concerning Tax Increment Financing for this affordable workforce housing project.
The City Council will vote whether to approve or disapprove the $947,400 request by the developer. If approved, the developer will receive $947,400 after completion of work and he only has to pay the normal required property taxes to pay it back. The city will not gain any of the increased property taxes until the $947,400 has been paid back in 12-15 years. The developer has to prove that this project would not go forward “but for” this financial incentive. If this developer can afford a 7 million project why would he need assistance from the City? It must be too good of a deal to refuse.
This affordable housing project is another effort by our City leaders to attract businesses to our City. It has been stated that if these two 3 story 36 unit buildings are constructed, it will provide additional housing for future workforce in our City. If you build it they will come! Our City has difficulty attracting, attaining and supporting new businesses. Why would building an apartment building change anything? Our City has some of the richest farmland within our City limits. It is zoned for residential and industrial growth. Yet, all this land sits undeveloped. Our City is now spending millions to extend sewer lines to more parcels of land that may sit empty. Where is Casey’s and Dollar General? Is our City creating solutions or compounding the problem?
Our City has over 25 vacant apartments at the present time. Why would we want to build more? What happens if the apartments cannot be rented? Will the developer walk away and leave the City hanging? No one thought Excelsior-Henderson would turn out the way it did!
Our City leaders should use these financial tools to create incentives for our land owners and future builders to create more rooftops in our town that will provide property taxes immediately!
While other nearby communities are attracting new businesses and developers to build high quality, attractive and compatible housing, all we are offered is an apartment building. There is a perception by some that our City leaders have been difficult to deal with by present and prospective businesses. If our City has nothing better to offer, let us live with the idea that bigger is not necessarily better. Let’s just be the best we can be with what we have and what we are.
It will be politics as usual if the City Council goes against the voters wishes and gives TIF financing towards the apartment complex at Elk Street.
All concerned citizens are invited to observe and even participate in the Public Hearing on September 16 at 6:30 pm at City Hall.
Respectfully submitted by the Preserve Our Neighborhood