Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

New plans for future developing

Council considers three proposals about sewers, water utilities, parks

November 1, 2007

Issues that could affect future residential development in Lansing were in the limelight last week when Lansing City Council members met for a work session.

Council members heard presentations on a proposal that would require future landowners to pay for extending sewers to undeveloped areas, a plan to declare an official water utility for the city and a developer's plan to avoid paying assessments by building a private park and doing his own erosion control.

The five commissioners present (Harland Russell and Don Studnicka were absent) first discussed the option of formulating a benefit district policy for the city, particularly in reference to plans to extend sewer lines along West Mary Street.

Under a benefit district, the city would issue a bond, and the bond payments, in theory, would be paid for by annual assessments levied on property owners benefiting from the bonded project.

In essence, if all went as planned, the benefit district would allow development to pay for itself.

Dave Arteberry, a financial adviser with Kansas City, Mo.-based George K. Baum & Company, likened the development tool to an individual who buys rental property.

"Hopefully the rent the renter pays you would equal or exceed your mortgage payment, and you make a little money," said Arteberry, who noted benefit districts increasingly are being used by Kansas municipalities. "But it doesn't always work out that way."

"Ninety percent of the time, they've been successful," he said. " ... But it's better to address possible risks now than to wait."

Those risks include project cost overruns and the possibility that lots might not sell. But he said there were mechanisms that could be put in place, such as requiring the developer to pay for overruns and requiring a letter of credit from the developer to mitigate risks.

The next item on the agenda was a discussion of an interlocal agreement that would make Lan-Del Water District the sole provider of water within the city limits.

Lan-Del attorney David Van Parys said with significant investments in the city and with the capacity to take on more lines, "Lan-Del believes it can provide a very high level of service: and wants to grow with the city."

Under the proposal, the city would purchase water lines from rural and consolidated water districts and would be reimbursed by Lan-Del for connections.

Council members raised several concerns over the proposal.

Dee Hininger asked if Lan-Del intended to run its own lines out to customers. Van Parys assured him that duplication of services would not occur.

City Administrator Mike Smith asked if the utility had plans to run a line out to the new city park west of Kansas Highway 7 on Gilman Road.

"We'd love to and have looked into it," Van Parys replied.

Council member Andi Pawlowski questioned how much a residential meter from Lan-Del would cost and was told approximately $750 compared to over $2,500 from one of the rural water districts in Lansing.

Finally, the council met with Jerry Reilly, chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Reilly and Sons Realtors, to discuss his ideas regarding the city's road impact and parkland fee for his planned 153-lot subdivision in the Rock Creek Estates.

In lieu of the $136,700 road impact fee, Reilly would pay for repairing an erosion problem along De Soto Road, and the $13,500 parkland fee would go toward creating sidewalks and a walking trail in the subdivision's private neighborhood park, respectively.

"I feel it's important if we do this project, to make it as attractive and appealing to the homeowner as possible," Reilly said, later adding of the private park, "If we can't provide certain amenities, we can't compete."

Council members and Reilly both acknowledged that the park fee was nominal compared to what improvements in the private park would cost.

Pawlowski said she was concerned that the park would only be used by Rock Creek homeowners and was reluctant to waive the fee for a private park.

Council member Dave Trinkle did not see Reilly's proposal as waiving a fee.

"He's not asking us to waive anything," Trinkle said. "He's asking us to offset it."

Reilly told the council he already will be investing $500,000 in the park, which will include a pool, basketball court, play area and walking trail. When the subdivision is completed, he said, it will boost the city's property tax rolls and the park will be used by more than 700 residents.

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