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City Council reviews final draft of 500 N. Grand redevelopment agreement

By Kelly Terpstra,

The development agreement between Charles City and Johnston developer Shawn Foutch to construct approximately 40 market-rate apartments in the 1930s portion of the 500 North Grand building was reviewed on Wednesday by the City Council at a planning workshop.

Part of that agreement will be the abatement of roughly 90 percent of the property tax owed over a 10-year period. The abatement amounts to almost $590,000.

“This is what will activate the 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement on the building once construction is completed,” said City Administrator Steve Diers.

There is also a penalty that could be enforced if Foutch is unable to make a Jan. 1, 2023, completion date.

The site-specific urban revitalization plan will be terminated on Feb. 1, 2024, one year and one month after the specified completion date, giving Foutch an extra year in which to finish the project and file his tax abatement application. Once applied for, the abatement is locked in for 10 years.

The item will be on Monday’s regular City Council meeting agenda.

Council members also discussed a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to amend an ordinance regarding the placement of accessory structures on lots without principal structures inside the city limits. The current zoning ordinance does not allow accessory structures to be built on a lot without principal structure.

The ordinance change would allow accessory structures such as garages to be constructed on an adjacent lot to a principal residence.

City Engineer John Fallis said Charles City Police Chief Hugh Anderson conducted an informal survey that identified 105 garages on vacant lots inside the city and only two were deemed to be nuisance properties.

“If you sell your house, then you have to either sell it with your house or you can come back to the Council and have that non-conveyance agreement moved to another person so you can sell it to another resident,” said Fallis. “What this will prevent is absentee owners.”

The first reading of this ordinance amendment will also be on Monday’s agenda.

Constructed Wetlands Group (CWG), a wastewater treatment company based out of Florida that helps in the handling of biosolids, was discussed to possibly be hired to help with construction of reed beds at the $17 million WRRF (water resource recovery facility).

The company would be hired for $150,000 and that fee would be paid in installments. The cost would be covered by the funds used to construct the WRRF plant.

The construction of the WRRF will help eliminate nitrogen and phosphorus – two nutrients that have been identified by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that are required to be reduced under the city’s most recent permit issuance in 2014.

Creation of equalization basins, that help with heavy water flows, is also a key component to the project.

Another facet of the proposed undertaking is reed bed installation. The bio-solids left over from treating wastewater create a sludge that needs to be hauled off the current site. Once completed, the beds will naturally dewater the sludge and be able to turn it into dry compost material that can easily be removed.

“It’s going to be a great cost savings to us not having to haul solids. We’ll be able to haul out dry compost instead of wet liquid,” said City Administrator Steve Diers.

Heidi Nielsen, the Charles City housing authority director, discussed the second phase of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) owner-occupied rehab program.

A grant of almost $250,000 was awarded to the Charles City Housing Department that could help rehabilitate at least six single-family owner-occupied homes in 2018.

The estimated cost to rehab a house at 313 7th Avenue as part of the program was $24,000. The low bid for the work done on the house came in at almost $27,000 by Bob Koenigs and Family Construction out of Stacyville.

The work done on the second house at 704 B Street was estimated at $28,715 and the bid by Koenigs and Family Construction was listed as almost $27,000.

The grants provide up to $24,999 in rehab and up to $5,750 in lead hazard reduction activity.