ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro City Council members asked at their Tuesday meeting for time to consider issues raised by financial and legal consultants regarding the Windover at Hillsboro housing development proposed for the city’s north side.
Considering a recommendation from the Community Planning & Development Commission to approve the final plat for the project, the council heard from its consultants about elements of the project that are not unusual, but would be different from Hillsboro’s current practice.
Financial consultant Jerry Rayl and bond counsel J.T. Klaus identified three primary issues for discussion:
— Whether “reserve space”-property shared by all homeowners within the development, such as a park or drainage pond-should be privately owned and maintained by the developers, or fall under the domain of the city.
If owned and managed by the homeowners association, as is being proposed by the developers, use of the property legally could be restricted to Windover residents, Rayl said.
At the same time, if the homeowners association would not maintain the grounds, Klaus said the city needs to ensure it has the authority to step in to fix the problem and to pass on the expense to the homeowners.
City Administrator Steven Garrett said he thought the city already had authority to clean up properties because of its zoning ordinances.
Klaus said the city’s authority extends only to individual lots. It does not apply to land corporately owned by the homeowners association.
Klaus suggested the city make a separate agreement with the developers that clarifies the city’s authority to step in if necessary.
— Whether to allow developers to include third-party costs for such things as planning and engineering as part of the “special assessments” homeowners will need to bear.
Craig White, a member of the Windover team, said one reason his company can keep homes affordable is by serving as both the developer and the builder. Some of the expenses a homeowner pays with a more traditional strategy need to be recouped if the project is to be economically feasible.
Rayl said such a practice is not unusual, but it would be different than the way the Hillsboro council has worked with development projects in the past.
— Whether to allow the developers to assess improvements against all 96 proposed lots even though the first phase of the development includes only 31 houses, and there is no guarantee that all lots will be developed.
Klaus noted that such a practice is not unusual, but it would be new for Hillsboro. He added that the fees would have to be assigned to specific improvements in order for the project to qualify for bonds.
Councilor Len Coryea asked what the implications would be for the city if the development did not succeed.
Dalke said that’s why developers are required to establish letters of credit, which give the city financial recourse.
In other business, the council:
— heard from Garrett that the state has approved a grant to help underwrite the cost of the cities of Hillsboro and Marion exploring ways to cooperate on water production.
— approved Ordinance 1086 and accompanying Resolution 2004-01 that will enable the city to refinance old bonds that were used to finance past water-plant improvements. By refinancing the $1.645 million bonds at current low rates, Rayl estimated the city would save $219,000 by the time the bonds are paid off.
— voted to move ahead with writing a new comprehensive plan for the city, pending an acceptable contract from Riggs & Associates, the city’s planning consultant.
Garrett said the Community Planning & Development Commission is intending to develop a comprehensive plan that will be a useful took instead of gathering dust on shelves.
He said the city’s zoning consultant, John Riggs, specializes in developing comprehensive plans that are useful.
Garrett also said developing a comprehensive plan, a process that is required by law, could take more than two years to complete and cost between $25,000 to $35,000.
Garrett said most of the expenses would be covered by the commission’s current budget.
“I don’t want to proceed with (developing a new comprehensive plan) unless it has some life to it,” he said.
— heard Councilor Len Coryea challenge Garrett’s decision to pay Dalke Construction $200 for removing hay after a truck fire that occurred a couple of months ago on U.S. Highway 56 west of the city.
Coryea said he didn’t feel the city was obligated to pay an expense that was incurred in the county, but Garrett said he decided to pay it because of the city’s contract with township boards for fire protection.
Garrett said the payment should expedite the resolution of issues related to the fire, but he did not elaborate on what the issues were.
— heard from Garrett that the city had received a “Gold Star Rating” from the Kansas Municipal Insurance Trust, qualifying the city for a 5 percent discount on its workman’s compensation premium.
— heard from Garrett that the process of preparing the city swimming pool for its Memorial Day opening is proceeding with “no major problems.”
— heard from Mayor Dalke that the city’s charter ordinance regarding annual appointments, approved in 1990, needs to be updated before she will recommend appointments for the coming year. She said several of the positions mentioned in the ordinance no longer exist.
— heard from Coryea that the Hillsboro Leo Club recently released 18 pounds of minnows into the pond in Hillsboro Heights in an effort to feed game fish that local anglers are relocating there.