City considering donating vacant lot
Fri, 01/03/2014 - 10:40am admin
The Clearwater City Council is considering donating a city-owned lot at 515 Spring Street to Habitat for Humanity.
At the last council meeting, members of the council talked about that option, along with selling the lot. The parcel, which is actually two combined lots, was donated to the city back in 2008 by Guy and Pauline Warner, but has never been used for anything since. At the time it was given to the city, the county estimated its value at about $45,000. Its value now is about $35,000.
There had been suggestions in the past about using it for a small park. But that never materialized. This summer the council discussed whether there was any reason for the city to hold on to the lot.
Since the city has a comprehensive plan, the planning commission had to review whether a sale of the property complies with the plan. In late September, the planning commission ruled there was no reason the city couldn’t sell the lot.
In October the council agreed to contact realtors about putting the lot up for sale. In a letter from Oak Realty, Realtor Gary Dagner said he would market the property to potential buyers. He also said an alternative plan would be to offer it to Habitat for Humanity.
“By donating the lot the city receives a benefit that lasts beyond just the initial cash it receives... The city would get a new home built in their community that would mean a family paying taxes in the community, purchasing good in the community and all the other attributes that go along with adding a family to the community.”
Dagner said the publicity could bolster others to buy or build on vacant lots in the city, increasing the tax base.
Dagner said he would assist the city in making contact with Habitat for Humanity and would not charge a commission fee.
At the last council meeting, Councilman Cory Broich said he spoke to a person who was interested in working with Habitat for Humanity to build a home. But he said there were still issues the council had to deal with.
Broich said even if the city donated the lot, someone had to pay the fees to split the lot. There are also water and sewer access (WAC & SAC) charges to consider.
Administrator Sue Vergin reminded the council about flooding issues on the property.
“There are considerable drainage issues with those lots. That’s why it’s one lot,” she said. “If you split it you’d have to address the drainage.”
Maintenance Supervisor John Schmidt confirmed there were drainage issues there.
“That’s the low spot for all the houses on that side of the street,” he said.
Councilman Kris Crandall felt the city might be creating an unbuildable lot if they split the two lots and sold the good one.
“Don’t you have to address the drainage issue in order to make it a usable lot?” he asked. “It’s not just splitting it.”
Mayor Pete Edmonson asked if the lot could be graded to address the drainage.
“Is it as simple as bringing in fill to raise the lot?” he asked.
Schmidt said that wouldn’t work because the water would find somewhere else to go, most likely an adjacent property.
“Some of the houses are low,” he said. “It’s the way it was built years ago.”
“You raise that and you flood others,” said Council-man Chris Ritzer.
Ritzer was worried that the city might donate the part of the property that didn’t have drainage problems. “My concern is we’re going to get rid of a piece of a lot, which will virtually make the rest unbuildable,” he said.
Edmonson said the city might be able to offer the remaining piece to an adjacent landowner.
Although the council didn’t have a clear solution for the drainage problem, City Continued On Page 2
they were interested in the possibility of a Habitat for Humanity project.
“I worked with Habitat for Humanity before in St. Cloud,” said Crandall. “They’re a good program. They do a lot of research and background on their potential candidates.”
Councilman Mike Ranum said they typically ask for community participation in addition to donating the land.
“It’s going up in our community so they’re probably going to want us to volunteer a certain number of hours also,” he said. “It’s not as simple as giving them the land. They also have to find corporate sponsors because 90% of their stuff is donated.”
Ranum said it usually takes between 14 and 24 months for a project to be completed from the ground up.
“That’s what I’ve experienced,” he said, “with raw land.”
The council did not commit to a Habitat for Humanity project. They tabled a decision until February. In the meantime, Broich will have the interested person contact Dagner about the process required by Habitat for Humanity.