Archive for Thursday, December 9, 2004

City councilman sees development opportunities

December 9, 2004

As new housing developments continue to stretch the boundaries of the city, at least one member of the Lansing City Council doesn't want to overlook redevelopment of existing residential areas.

Harland Russell, who represents Ward 4, wants the City Council to study whether it should offer incentives to encourage "infill development," a term used for redevelopment of properties in older, established neighborhoods.

At last week's City Council meeting, he asked that the idea be put on the agenda of a future study session.

"I thought the council should look at some ways to stimulate redevelopment where we have some distressed properties or empty lots," Russell said a day after the meeting. "If we could get some of that (infill development) going on, if developers saw that as an attractive alternative to going out and building homes in a new subdivision, I think it would be of benefit."

Among the benefits to the city: Costly infrastructure - streets, sewers, etc. - already exists in established neighborhoods, which means the expense for maintaining those items already is on the books; and any kind of development increases the tax base and thus revenues to the city.

But the city wouldn't be the sole beneficiary of infill development, Russell theorizes.

"It may spur adjoining property owners to make improvements as well, thus increasing home values in those areas," he said.

Russell said he wasn't certain of all of the types of incentives the city could offer to promote infill development. He did offer two possibilities: waiving the city policy of charging a sidewalk fee when a property owner builds a new house or makes an addition to an existing house; and waiving the city policy requiring new housing to have sodded front lawns.

As Russell sees it, the sidewalk fee and sod requirement costs are substantial enough that waiving them could be the incentive developers need to undertake an infill project.

For now, though, Russell is hesitant to propose anything specific. He's not certain of the potential costs to the city for such incentives, the number of properties where infill would be desirable or whether developers and fellow council members would be interested.

"That's why I'd like to get it to a study session and see if it's viable," he said. "It's just something I want to talk about."

No date has been set for a City Council study session on infill development.

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