The master plan for the 50-acre, 96-unit Remund Farms has already been approved by Midway City. Now Watts Enterprises are asking for a few changes to the master plan.
At the September 3rd Midway City Council meeting the changes to the master plan were presented in a public hearing. Proposed amendments included adjusting the pad dimensions of a single unit in the plan, another was to adjust the location of three units. Those two suggestions received less pushback from the council or public in attendance.
The two other requests from the developer included adding private backyard areas to 37 units. The area would be 12 feet deep and would not be a part of the building pad but would act as a yard, additionally structures such as a covered deck or a hot tub could be built in that area. The other request from the developer was to split the phasing of the project from three phases to six. Having more phases would mean the developer would be able to spread the risk of building the development, it would also mean more public hearings for each phase approval.
Right now, the undeveloped phases pay a lower tax rate than they will when they are developed. Resident Athina Koumarela was one of several residents who spoke at the hearing.
“We’re asking again to be bonded for education, schools,” Koumarela explained. “I’m sorry this is an impact in our community where if it’s a deferred tax situation, I’m paying the taxes. Higher taxes for that, as JC mentioned, and I do not agree with that.”
Council member JC Simonsen considers the phasing issue to be nuanced.
“I’m not altogether against the idea of having more phases and giving the developer a little more leeway to get through thin times,” Simonsen continued. “Because the question is, if they can’t sell their lots is it going to do more harm than good, trying to collect taxes that we’re not going to be collecting but they’ll be paid eventually? I think we need to look overall at the process and find a balance point.”
Mayor Celeste Johnson also asked about the additional 12 feet on units that bordered wetlands areas, those usually have a 25-foot buffer. The developers noted that some encroachment on the 25-feet area was already approved by the city engineer, although Mayor Johnson felt that further encroachment did not serve the city.
Paul Berg, representing Watts Enterprises noted that the developers had already made compromises to the original master plan, even though they were not required by city code.
“We presented the plan. Your own staff said this plan meets all the requirements of our code,” Berg said. “However, there’s been a suggestion by members of the Planning Commission and maybe even City Council that said we’d like you to not approve the plan that’s been presented, but another plan that then required code changes and exceptions. That was the plan that we went with. The compromise, in my opinion, was that the developer was willing to go with changes that the community had suggested that benefited them, even though the code was on our side of the plan that we presented.”
Council member Bob Probst agreed with the majority of the public saying the city had just turned down a project similar to this.
“This was an arduous process to go through to get done,” Probst explained. “Now they’re back in here trying to change it all around, I don’t like that. They made an agreement to build it like this, they should build it like this. If we approve this, I’m afraid that we’re going to create a monster. Creating more time and effort for the city to review and do all this stuff. It’s clearly not a benefit to the city, it’s a benefit to the developer. It’s about the bottom line that’s why they’re in business. We approve this we’re going to create a monster. We’re going to have Dutch Fields back in here trying to do what they’re going to do. We’re going to have any developer down the road.”
Council member Simonsen said he was concerned about changes to phasing especially if it resulted in less taxes being brought into the city, but he also said concessions are an important consideration for future projects.
“I want to make sure that people out there who are willing to do that kind of stuff are willing to work with Midway,” Simonsen continued. “Sometimes people make concessions because they feel like they can work with you and I think that’s important to be honest. I think if we’re not careful we may lose that, and I don’t want to see that go. That kind of cooperative effort. That’s important to me, but yeah it’s kind of a gray line here.”
No decision was made at the council meeting as the item will make a return to coming agendas.
Read the original story at KPCW.org