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Commission hears housing development proposal

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Hays city commissioners at Thursday’s work session expressed support for a proposed income-based housing development planned for East Fifth Street.

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Hays city commissioners at Thursday’s work session expressed support for a proposed income-based housing development planned for East Fifth Street.

Overland Property Group has plans to construct a 48-unit complex at the site of Fort Hays Trailer Park, 618 E. Fifth. The developer has requested a resolution of support from the commission, which will be voted on at next week’s regular meeting.

“I’m pleased that you’ve chosen that property,” Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said. “That’s a gateway to our community, and, as we all know, today it’s not very lovely.”

The complex would be called the Reserves at Stonepost and offer a variety of two- and three-bedroom apartments. Overland Property Group also developed the three Stonepost apartment complexes at Fifth and Main and near Larks Park on Fourth Street.

The company has been wanting to develop a fourth complex for some time; a 2014 proposal for a facility on East 22nd Street was not successful.

“The property is currently shown as a trailer park. I believe there have been quite a few annoyance-type issues with code violations and so forth over the years,” said Matt Gillam of Overland Property Group. “It’s been very difficult for us to find a site that meets all of our stringent qualifications. This one is in an area we believe needs to be revitalized.”

The company has an option contract on the land, which will expire in December. Gillam said the company has a “limited window” of time in order to move forward with the project.

The housing complexes are income-based, and the developer is seeking state tax subsidies. Tenants must pay rent, and fees are not based on a sliding scale, though there is a cap on how much money a qualified renter can make, Gillam said.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to affordable housing; how is it financed, what qualifies you to live there,” Gillam said. “Typically, people confuse it with Section Eight, which is a completely different program. They’re not even remotely close. Section Eight, you can not have a job and be living there. … With this type of financing, really it’s affordable housing, so kind of moderate housing. These are people with jobs.”

If the project moves forward, the developer likely will ask the city commission to consider granting the apartment complex a Rural Housing Incentive District tax break in the future, Gillam said. That would allow the developer to be reimbursed for some costs.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said he is in favor of the project, but noted local contractors had wanted to submit bids for the previous three Stonepost developments but were unable to do so. He asked if local businesses would be permitted to present proposals for the new project.

“The question is two local suppliers of building materials could not get to you to bid on either one, two or three,” Schwaller said. “How do we get that to happen on this one?”

The company now uses a different general contractor, which has a history of reaching out to the community for local bids, said Pat Beatty with Overland Property Group.

“It’s to everybody’s benefit to do it locally,” Beatty said. “As you know, labor’s not easy to come by right now — I don’t care where you are. The quality will be better if we use Hays people. It will get done quicker. It’s just the way to do it.”

Developers also have suggested the possibility of partnering with the city of Hays to construct a public bridge to connect that neighborhood to a nearby park. Jacobs also expressed support for that idea, noting the path could tie into the city’s hike and bike trail system.

If all goes according to plan, construction is scheduled to begin in October, with a grand opening tentatively set for August 2018. Construction costs are estimated at $6 million.

“We still have a really long, uphill battle to get the state’s blessing and be one of the few places that gets funded, and that’s quite a hill to climb,” Gillam said.