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Housing No. 1 priority in BE

By Staff | Jan 22, 2017

The Blue Earth City Council has been studying this possible layout of building lots located north of the Lampert’s Lumber facility, and east of Highway 169, for two years. It would have space for 47 lots, with the shaded gray ones part of a Phase 1. The council has decided that the need for new housing in Blue Earth is one of their top priorities for 2017.

Housing. Housing. Housing.

Those are the top three items on Blue Earth city councilman John Huisman’s priority list for city projects for 2017.

And, he was not the only councilman who listed housing as one of the items they felt the city should address this year.

“We have a definite need for housing in this community,” Huisman said. “Not just affordable housing but also some more expensive homes. We were told at the EDA (economic developments authority) meeting last week that there are no houses over $150,000 for sale in Blue Earth at this time and there is a demand for those types of properties.”

Huisman added that developing housing is a complex problem, and will take the involvement of the City Council, the EDA and the HRA.

Mayor Rick Scholtes agreed.

“Housing is a real need, especially better homes,” Scholtes said. “And we can’t wait for a developer to come along, the city is going to have to get involved.

The council spent their half hour work session last Monday night looking over their priority lists from 2016 as well as the ones they recently came up with for 2017.

That sparked a discussion on housing that later was continued as part of the regular meeting.

City administrator Tim Ibisch presented a plan that had been in the works for some time, which was for a development of property the city already owns north of the Lampert’s Lumber store on the northeast side of town.

The plan is for 47 building lots and comes in at an estimated cost of $2.9 million for the infrastructure streets, sanitary sewer, water mains and storm sewer.

However, the project could be broken down into phases, with a Phase 1 developing 14 lots and coming in at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.

The reason for the high cost of Phase 1 for 14 lots, compared to the overall project for 47 lots is because the sewer and water first has to be brought into the new area from near Lampert’s and McDonald’s.

“Once we have the sewer and water to the project area, developing future lots in the project area will be less expensive,” Ibisch explained.

The cost to the city to develop the area for the entire project would mean the lots would cost the city around $62,000 just for the infrastructure. If only Phase 1 was done, those 14 lots would cost $85,000 each just for the infrastructure.

What the city would actually sell those lots for to potential house builders would have to be determined.

The City Council had previously appointed a housing development task force, composed of members of the council, EDA, HRA and the community.

That group has looked at other possible housing development land around the city, including some on the south side of town.

“We have looked at several areas,” Mayor Scholtes said. “But there are advantages to the land by Lampert’s. For one thing, the city already owns that property, so we would not have to buy land somewhere else.”

While no decisions were made on Monday night, the council did decide to continue discussions on this topic and hopefully develop some plan of action by the end of the year.

Housing was certainly not the only topic on the council’s priority list. Also on it were things such as selling the Three Sisters, streets, sidewalks and trails, developing new park areas and continue with projects at the current parks and ballfields, and develop better communication with employees.

In other business at last Monday’s meeting, the council:

Heard an annual update on the fire department from Blue Earth fire chief Roger Davis.

Davis reported the department responded to 82 calls in 2016, not all of them fires. Some were accidents, others were false alarms.

They billed out for responding to 23 fires last year at $1,000 per fire call.

Learned from city engineer Wes Brown that a final draft of the Safe Routes to Schools grant application had been completed and sent in.

The grant would be for $260,000 with a local share of $160,000 and it would be used for construction of new sidewalks (mainly on the west side of town) as well as maintenance on other sidewalks, used by students to get to school.

Brown said the city should hear back about the grant by April 17, but the funding would not be granted until 2021.

Granted a temporary Sunday liquor license to the American Legion Post, for a Super Bowl party.

Authorized another change order for the Main Street project, this one for $4,682 for additional electrical work.