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Community Notes: Charles City moving ahead on plans, projects

By Steve Diers, Charles City City Administrator

Tax Abatement for new construction and “additions” – One of the goals of the City Council over the last few years has been to enact a tax abatement incentive for new home construction to incentivize the construction of new homes. Basically, what this means is that you would have a portion of the new property taxes generated by the new construction or addition forgiven or “abated” up front for a set number of years.

Getting new houses built in rural communities is very difficult so the City Council landed on a tax abatement plan that would forgive 100% of the new property taxes that can be abated for a period of ten years for new residential construction or improvement projects to a property that would add a minimum of 10% assessed value to the parcel.

This will encompass the entire community and would include commercial properties as well.

Commercial property tax abatement would operate on the property owner’s choice of: A) Ten years stepped abatement (each year abatement would step down: 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, 40%, 40%, 30%, 30%, 20%, 20%); or B) Three years 100% abatement of the eligible new taxes generated.

I say “eligible new taxes” as there are some amounts that cannot be abated. That being said we feel that implementing this program will incentivize new construction and improvements to be made to existing properties providing much needed housing stock in the short run and tax base growth of the community as a whole in the long run.

The process for implementing a Tax Abatement program is not a quick one. The first official step was taken by the City Council on Nov. 6 when they set a public hearing to consider the tax abatement plan for Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers. In the next week or so all property owners will be sent a notice from the city of that public hearing to be held.

After that public hearing the city must wait another 30 days to receive any further comment from the public. Then by the end of January we should be at a place to consider taking action on an ordinance that would officially adopt the tax abatement plan into city code.

“Thriving Community” Designation – A few months ago the city applied for and was awarded the “Thriving Community” designation by the state of Iowa’s Iowa Finance Authority (IFA). What this designation brings to Charles City are bonus points in either a Market Rate Housing Tax Credit application or a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit application that can be used by a private developer for new housing developments.

This was the first year of the Thriving Communities program and we were one of 11 communities that were awarded, and one of only three communities that received both Market Rate and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The concept was to showcase communities such as Charles City which have had some successes in housing development, but those successes have not eliminated the need for added housing in the community.

With that designation we have been approached by developers and have started conversations around potential projects. We hope to secure a project or two by this spring.

LED Light Replacement – You may have noticed that the downtown street lights have a new look. A few months ago, the city approved a project with ROI Energy that would implement instant rebates being offered by MidAmerican Energy to replace existing light fixtures with LED lights. These rebates allowed us to install lights that are more energy efficient and longer lasting.

In 2015 we did a similar project with our large 400 watt and 240 watt “regular” street lights and some buildings. Now the benefit is there for the decorative lights and remaining lights in the rest of our city buildings. The downtown lights are certainly the most recognizable of the changes and it is great to have a uniform look and consistent operation of those lights. Now if we can keep people from backing into them. …

Mill Race Parking Project Completion – The parking lot project behind the 100 block of North Main and North Jackson Street is all but completed. There is some fine-tuning left to do but all in all the project is done and seems to be working out well.

We were able to reuse the existing pavement that was there from Jackson/Riverside streets as well as the previous parking lot and only needed to fill in the other areas with permeable pavers.

The fact that we could use the permeable pavers is important for a couple of reasons. Using permeable pavers adds storm water retention capability with where grass areas were removed, and secondly it then qualified all of the project to be eligible for Sponsored Project funding. The City was awarded Sponsored Project dollars up to $1 million from our WRRF project at the sewer plant for projects that address stormwater issues.

The funding itself comes from the state of Iowa by the state reducing some of the interest money they would keep from our WRRF loan and granting it back to the community for doing projects such as this.

Also, I’ve had some questions as to the name of the project area “Mill Race Parking Project.” Mill Race Park is the park adjacent to the project where the old mill once stood.

North Main Street Repaving/Realignment; Charley Western Trail Extension 2024 – The city is finalizing the plans for the repaving and realignment of the north end of Main Street. This project will be an early summer 2024 project. This generally consists of removing a layer of paving and replacing with fresh asphalt.

Scope of the project includes all of Main Street starting at the courthouse (including a block of Gilbert Street) and going all the way to the end of North Main where it connects to North Grand Avenue. The project will also replace a good amount of curb and gutter along Main Street as well as remove the inlaid brick that is currently in the sidewalk area.

The decision was made to remove this brick as much of it was going to need to be removed and replaced as part of the curb and gutter work. Due to the way the brick pavers sit on a fixed base and have shifted over the years, they have created some tripping hazards.

When we looked at the price to remove and replace the brick by the curb and gutter repairs as compared to removing all of the brick and pouring concrete back in, the price estimate came back as equal. It was thought best to remove them.

Also, the far north end will see improvements made as we remove a building from the former Cal’s Auto location and smooth out the corner where North Main transitions to North Grand.

Finally in what is a separate but connected project, the city will be extending the Charley Western Trail to North Grand from where it currently terminates on F Street. The project consists of paving asphalt trail from F Street through what is commonly referred to as 11th Avenue, then through to actual 11th Avenue to North Grand.

The North Main repaving project includes area for the Charley Western Trail on the northwest side in the grassy area adjacent to the Canadian National railroad tracks where it will stop and then continue onward on Lane Street before turning south and using existing residential street to connect to the trail spur on Riverside Drive.

The North Main Street project will be funded by Local Option Sales Tax dollars, and the trail extension is being funded 80% by state of Iowa trail funding, with the remainder from city funding.

Charles City Facebook Page – Search for: Charlescity50616 to find the City Facebook Page. We regularly update here for various happenings and city news.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns please let us know at City Hall. My email is or you can give me a call at 641-257-6300. Have a great day!

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