Marion country club developers ask for city assistance

Attorney Chris Costello, representing Country Club Heights developers Doug Sharp and Roger Hannaford III at the Marion City Council meeting Monday, asked that the city assume more than $17,000 expected expense in paving the development?s access street called Country Club Heights.

City Administrator David Mayfield said this would raise the city?s total expense on the project to more than $40,000 because it already has responsibility for one side as the result of taking ownership from the former owner.

Costello said the proposal was one of establishing fairness because at the time the developers began the project 13 or 14 years ago, the Marion City Commission of that time promised construction of a city street if four or five homes were built. The only record of this promise is in the property deed, he said.

He said the street runs through a flood plain area that can?t be developed, and Sharp and Hannaford are willing to deed any part of that land to the city in return. Costello noted that such donated land could be used for further street widening or for a park area.

Councilor Stacey Collett said that such a donation would result in more city expense in periodic mowing.

Costello and Sharp both said the two developers had invested $50,000 of their money in the project, and had only been able to sell $40,000 worth of lots, a net loss.

Costello said ?in fairness? that the city was benefiting from the newer homes housing more residents, and providing more tax base.

He added, ?There is another issue I might point out. The city is dying for developers. Whenever we get people willing to invest here, I would hope the city becomes viewed as beneficial to developers…to be involved as progressive to make future development economically feasible.?

Councilor Gene Winkler said in retrospect the ?city had more costs in this project than you guys.? He said developments such as sewer, water and electricity to the site cost Marion a listed total of $61,556. Winkler said there already was a gravel access road to the property.

Costello acknowledged the road, but said that by promising a city street, a more upgraded surface was implied.

Sharp said, ?It is a fairness issue. We risked our money, and didn?t come out well. All we are asking is that we be treated like the fellow across the road.?

Mayfield advised that further into the meeting the council was to approve or disapprove bond issue and public hearing for bond issue at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 5.

Costello and City Attorney Dan Baldwin agreed the burden for paying associated street costs goes with the land, and not with the question of who owns the land at the time. Therefore, they said, the bond issue could be voted, and ownership responsible for paying decided at a later time.

The council approved 5-0 the bond issuance for $81,000 and the hearing. They directed Baldwin to negotiate with Costello for two sets of payment alternatives they might be able to approve.

Baldwin presented the council with a rewritten truck parking ordinance that would allow semi drivers to park trailers on their own land with residential neighbors? agreement and proper access.

Kevin Steele, who has been asking the council for approval of such parking for weeks on his lots on West Main, hoped for final permission as a result.

But Collett said the city should collect a permit fee for inspection expenses, and then further suggested annual permits.

Economic Development Director Jami Williams suggested that planning and zoning might even want a conditional-use permit.

Baldwin promised to develop suggested fees, and assured Steele that permission ?is on the way.?

Mayor Mary Olson, who wanted to make sure permission wouldn?t allow cattle trailers in residential areas, was assured by Baldwin that permits would always be on a case by case basis.

He added, ?I really can?t imagine that too many places in town will fit requirements.?

Police Chief Josh Whitwell introduced Josh Bryant to the Council as a new police officer.

Margo Yates, reporting for the Chamber of Commerce and the Recreation Commission, said 12 new rhinos have been added for this year?s rhino tour.

She is working on Marion?s contribution to the state 2008 activity calendar. She predicted Marion County will host the Symphony on the Prairie in either 2008 or 2009.

Yates said ideas are coming in for more Recreation Commission use of the auditorium after the school moves its activities to its own auditorium.

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