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Council hears information regarding Parkside development at work session

By James Grob,

The Charles City Council heard more information regarding the desire to have Crown Point Builders of Garner finish construction of single homes and duplexes on the remaining lots in the Parkside Villa development at Wednesday’s planning session.

The planning session was attended by representatives from Parkside via phone, as well as Crown Point Properties and representatives from Stewart Realty, all who discussed the development. No action was taken.

The city has been working with Crown Point to possibly finish the remaining lots in the Parkside Villa residential development on the site of the former Jefferson Elementary School.

The project began with a Community Development Block Grant that helped with the down payment to purchase the energy-efficient homes, but since that grant money has run out, developers have had a problem building the homes at a price where they were affordable.

Crown Point is requesting a 10-year property tax rebate on the improved value of the lots and newly constructed homes, which would require the city to establish a tax-increment financing (TIF) zone there. Crown Point is looking at building 20-24 additional units at the property.

Recently, Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews, City Administrator Steve Diers and others met with Crown Point and Parkside Development stakeholders in Garner, and toured completed and in-progress residential rental properties.

According to a letter submitted to the council by Dean Stewart and others at Stewart Realty in Charles City, the meeting and tour verified that new residential construction is viable within rural Iowa communities with appropriate incentives and business partnerships in place.

Stewart said that the Parkside Development Project is a foundational component of meeting the immediate housing needs within the community. He said the project targets the largest buyer pool (ages 65+) “while simultaneously catering to highly educated transferees moving into the community.”

“We think with Crown Point we can reinvigorate the (Parkside) project and move forward,” Stewart told the council. “I think, confidently, that they’ll have the ability to build out the remaining 24 lots, which will add a significant amount of housing and tax base to the community.”

Council member Phoebe Pittman said she loved the rental possibility for a number of reasons.

“We have a lot of rentals, but they aren’t necessarily the kinds of rentals that new people moving to town are looking for,” Pittman said.

Andrews said that the issue will be discussed further and in more detail at future work sessions.

“It looks like a real promising project. I hope we can make it happen,” Andrews said.

In other business Wednesday, the council discussed the use of the former Kelly Street right of way — in between SNAP fitness and First Citizen’s Bank — as a location to provide public outdoor seating,

Community Development Director Mark Wicks told the council that the proposal is to put two all-weather, all-season picnic tables in the area.

Wicks said there has been an AARP grant awarded for the seating, as well as funds from Community Revitalization. The city Parks and Recreation Department will provide labor. Wicks said permission was from the City Council for the seating.

“It would be a place for people downtown to go out, eat their lunch,” Wicks said. “We think this is a first step toward addressing the shortcoming of public outdoor seating in Charles City.”

Andrews said at the city park board meeting Thursday that one of the tables would be handicapped-accessible, with one of its four sides without a seat so people using wheelchairs can sit there.

Other items discussed at the City Council planning session included TSIP funding on highway 18, the forgivable loan for the Cambrex expansion, and a contract for a clear well study with SEH. Those items are expected to be on the agenda at Monday’s council meeting.