Baldwin City Council approves three-fold housing incentive plan

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January 6, 2015

The Baldwin City Council approved a three-fold incentive plan Monday meant to stimulate residential housing in the city.

The past three years, the council annually has approved reducing development fees charged on new single-family homes by 50 percent to $3,185. The program approved Monday continued that through 2015 but added elements Collin Bielser, city community development director, proposed after researching incentives offered in neighboring cities.

The city had its best year since the start of the recession in 2009 with seven new housing permits approved in 2014, Bielser said. Although that was something of a bounce, it compared to the 70 issued in both 2003 and 2005, he said.

Bielser said his research showed the city’s development fees were lower than those charged in Eudora, Gardner, Lawrence, Olathe or Ottawa. Because some of the cities on that list with the highest fees also experienced the most housing starts, the study also suggested location was a bigger factor than fees in prompting residential housing, he said.

Nonetheless, he proposed the council continue with the reduced fee schedule through 2015 as a way to offer something to contractors and developers. As a further incentive, the council approved Bielser’s proposal that all fees be waived on the fourth home a developer built in the city this calendar year.

The last element of the incentive package was to waive all development fees on new homes of $300,000 or more. Bielser said that measure was meant to combat the trend of those expensive homes being built in rural areas near Baldwin City.

Because those expensive homes would most likely be built in Fire Tree or Signal Ridge, Bielser’s proposal would have limited the incentive to those subdivisions. The council, however, chose to make the incentive available citywide.

In a related matter, the council authorized Mayor Marilyn Pearse to sign an agreement with the Kansas Housing Authority to participate in a $200,000 moderate income housing grant. The grant will provide $20,000 to qualifying “moderate-income” individuals or families toward the down payment on a newly constructed home.

As part of the agreement, the city will limit development fees on homes purchased with the grant to $2,500.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a request from Baker Student Life/Area Committee to close a number of city streets for a 5K “glow run” from 8:50 to 10 p.m. Friday. Streets to be closed are Grove Street between Sixth and Eighth streets, Sixth Street from Grove to Chapel streets, Chapel Street between Third and Sixth streets, Third Street from Chapel to High streets, High Street from Third to Sixth streets, Sixth Street from High to Lincoln streets, Lincoln Street from Sixth to Seventh streets, Seventh Street from Lincoln to Monroe Streets, Monroe Street from Seventh to 10th Street, 10th Street from Monroe to Orange streets, Orange Street from Eighth to 10th streets, and Eighth Street from Orange Street to Grove.

• Heard from public works director Bill Winegar that split-rail fencing was being construction at Spring Creek Lake in an attempt to discourage vandalism.

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