Even the best laid plans don’t always work out. When that plan involves real-estate development, the cost of unexpected setbacks can be prohibitive.
That’s part of the story of Willow Glen, an attractive residential development situated along the south edge of Hillsboro, according to Delores Dalke. A longtime real-estate broker in the community, Dalke now finds herself involved in the project as mayor.
Last month, project developer Eldred Kunkel gave about half of the 20-acre development—19 undeveloped lots in all—to the city of Hillsboro in lieu of back taxes and as a gesture of goodwill for a project that could not survive a timid local economy.
The development didn’t fail for lack of planning, according to Dalke, who was mayor when the city council approved the final plat in 1998.
“I think they went into it with a lot of good intentions,” she said. “They did a lot of work prior to doing it. They had their house plans laid out, they had everything ready to go. They probably did the best job of developing something that I have ever seen done in a rural community.”
Dalke said what the developers hadn’t counted on was a slow local economy.
“The economy didn’t keep up with what they were wanting to do,” she said. “The other thing that happened was, that as they started, they began to add on to each of their plans and make each house a little bigger than before. Consequently, as prices were going up, the houses became too expensive. But a lot of it had to do with the economy.”
Today, Willow Glen is home to 18 houses with an attractive park area and pond developed by the homeowners association.
The people who purchased houses in Willow Glen seem pleased with the development, Dalke said.
“It’s a nice area,” Dalke said. “The people who live there enjoy it there. There are beautiful houses out there, and of the people who are living in them, I don’t know of anybody who is upset with their house,” Dalke added.
“They’re happy, and there has been a good resale on the ones that have come up for sale.”
It’s only the future of the rest of the property that remains uncertain.
The city first accepted nine lots in the developed half of the project from Kunkel in 2006. In 2008, the council set a selling price of $5,000 on each of the lots. The city has since sold three.
The special assessments the city was responsible for has decreased from $13,500 a year to around $10,300.
The newly acquired property will be tougher to sell off. Eight of the 19 lots have access to a sewer line in what would be the backyard, but they’re not ready to build on. A second street would have to be developed first and the remaining utilities installed.
“These lots here have specials on then them for sewer, but they don’t have specials for water or electricity or drainage,” Dalke said.
Even though the lots are not accessible for the construction of houses, Dalke said accepting the property was the best financial move the city could make in a difficult situation.
“We have to pay the bond holders no matter if we get paid or not,” Dalke said. “So we might a well own the lots and come up with a plan for finishing it off and selling those lots, or find somebody to buy them. We have to pay no matter what.”
Dalke said it’s not unusual for a city government to be involved in residential developments, but small communities don’t have the funds available to them as large cities do.
“Some larger cities that have money will issue the special-assessment bonds, but the city funds them all,” she said. “They’re out their money, but they don’t have to pay some other bond holder.
“We’re not in position to have that kind of money,” Dalke added. “Bond holders someplace or other have to be paid. If we would not do it, then our city credit would go down the tube, and we can’t afford to let that happen because of other projects that we have going on.”
Dalke said the council has not had time yet to develop a clear plan for dealing with the newly acquired property.
“We need to come up with a plan for it, but honestly we have so many things going right now it’s hard to sit down and come up with a plan,” she said.