Narrow votes gives city support to housing development

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Hays city commissioners, in a 2-1 vote, gave their support Thursday night to a proposed 32-apartment housing development near Hays Medical Center.

Commissioners Ron Mellick and Eber Phelps voted for the resolution of support for the Overland Property Group LLC housing development and a letter of support considering pursuing a Rural Housing Incentive District in Hays.

OPG's request of support from the city is similar to the support given for the Stonepost Apartment developments in south Hays. However, an additional request to establish a RHID was put before commissioners.

Opposed to offering city support for the development, Vice Mayor Kent Steward cited several reasons.

"I struggled to support (OPG developments) previously, but the fact that you're going to dip into the taxpayers' pockets at the federal level and the local level, I don't think I can support that," he said.

"It's just too far over the top for me."

Steward also disapproved of establishing an RHID, which would allow qualifying developers who are constructing new affordable housing units to recoup the incremental property taxes that occur following development for up to 15 years.

Steward contended that for a developer to pay tax only on a property's unimproved ground denied improvements on a property can make demands on city services.

"You're offering apartments way below the market rate, which gives you a tremendously unfair advantage over the existing landlords," he said, offering still another reason for his negative vote.

Mellick said he agreed in part with Steward but said the city's recent comprehensive plan shows a "dire need" for housing in Hays.

"I can't see us crippling the city of Hays in our expansion and future population growth by denying this," he said.

Both Commissioner Eber Phelps and Steward said OPG's Stonepost Apartments have been well-maintained and community members have been impressed with the apartments built in south Hays.

Mayor Troy Hickman was absent, and Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV left the commission room during the discussion with OPG.

"While I do not believe that I have a conflict under city ordinance, I don't think it's appropriate for a commissioner to design an incentive package for someone that may benefit him or her in the future," Schwaller said. "So I'm going to leave the chambers."

Schwaller's company, Henry Schwaller & Associates Inc., provides residential and commercial rentals in Hays.

In other business, commissioners:

* Unanimously approved an interlocal agreement and letter of understanding between the city and Ellis County. The agreement will allow Ellis County to receive approximately 90 percent of revenue generated by a special sales tax the county plans to put on a ballot in 2013.

* Voted to approve bids for the 2013 street maintenance program. Bids included: B&H Paving for chip seal operations, $125,158; Stripe and Seal for seal coat operations, $90,793; Stripe and Seal for polypatch, $42,450; Iowa Erosion Control for diamond grinding, $22,500; Bryant & Bryant Construction for curb and brick repair, $108,625; Proseal for preservative seal, $26,244.

* Approved a business permit application for Rex Chambers of Aces High Aircraft Refinishing to perform refinishing of aircraft on Hays Regional Airport property.

* Approved entering into a contract with Roofmasters Roofing for replacement of the sand filter building roof and main control building roof at the wastewater treatment plant. The combined cost of both roof replacements was bid at $50,100.

* Voted to accept a quote from R.E. Pedrotti Co. for installation of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition equipment at the wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $74,635.