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Council continues discussion on condo project

Creston City Council continued a discussion regarding an 88-unit condominium development proposed by Kading Properties during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

The council meeting opened with a public forum, during which residents Jean Davis, Todd Jackson, fire chief, and Doug Daggett, attorney, expressed their concerns about the proposed plan.

Public forum

Davis, who lives on Lake View Drive, said she feels the “high-density, rental/leasing development” would have a negative impact on the values of existing properties.

“That is a high taxable area and those homes are the high taxable homes,” said Davis.

Davis said the number of proposed three-bedroom units on a 16 acre lot has the potential of hosting 250 to 350 new residents to the area, which she argued would create increased congestion and traffic in the area, more noise, and the plan doesn’t offer any recreational space. She’s also concerned about the impact the plan proposed by Kading Properties would have on the existing efforts by Sonntag Development in the same area along Cottonwood Street.

“I’ve invested my money there and I don’t want to see it compromised by putting in a lesser quality development,” said Davis.

Jackson, who lives on Cottonwood, would share a property line with the proposed development, should it come to fruition. He said family members who were in town for Thanksgiving had expressed their frustration with a property, which happened to be a Kading property.

“They were talking about how low-quality that property was and how many problems there was in those places,” said Jackson.

Jackson also expressed concern about the potential of his property value decreasing and proposed “proactive” measures and incentives for investors to improve the areas throughout town where deteriorating “junk houses” exist.

“If we just keep building new and new, and keep ignoring the old ... we’re going to end up with a bigger problem around town that we’re not going to be able to deal with,” Jackson said.

Daggett, whose firm is located on Montgomery Street and owns a house on Prairie Street, spoke on behalf of Don Sonntag, the owner of Sonntag Development, who is in the process of building the Cottonwood Estates and built homes in the James Ridge neighborhood.

Earlier that day, Sonntag sent a letter to city officials and council members to consider, which Daggett highlighted some key points from the letter for the council.

Daggett pointed out that, while the development and sale of the condos have been slower than anticipated, Sonntag has completed the first 24 units he committed to in the Cottonwood Estates and he is currently paying taxes despite a number of those units haven’t been built yet.

Daggett verbally mapped out a number of potential alternate locations, such as land located next to Creston Community Elementary School, property north of Bunn-O-Matic, and land on South and North Cherry streets.

“We’re not saying that entry level, rental housing isn’t needed in the community, but ... those are executive style,” said Daggett. “This 90-unit rental property, which is essentially an apartment complex, isn’t consistent with that neighborhood.”

Terry Freeman, at-large representative, said he conducted an online poll via Facebook, in which he proposed the question, “Is $795 rent for a one car, three bedroom condo considered attainable housing?” to which 63 percent said “no” for various reasons, such as “cheap” construction or they found the rent / lease amount was too high.

Freeman and Steve Wintermute, at-large representative, toured a house and a few units built by Kading Properties in Osceola last week. During the tour, the councilmembers spoke with a few tenants.

“Of course, as one might suspect, they gave glowing reviews,” said Freeman.

However, a couple who are in the process of buying a home told Freeman the unit they rented from Kading Properties served its purpose as a transitional housing.

Bill Trickey, executive director of the Clarke County Development Corporation in Osceola, told Freeman he’s “very pleased” with Kading and the company “built the city out of a bad situation,” in which the previous developer built a “shoddy” sewer system, a handful of houses, failed to pay property tax and eventually filed bankruptcy.

Kading had gone through the effort of acquiring the property, built condos around it’s perimeter and houses on the interior of the property.

Only one property inspected by Freeman had something that concerned him – steep driveways, which weren’t built to code. Kading was forced to build pillars with heavy chains connecting them, to prevent tenants from accessing the driveway and garage. Eventually, parking and garages were installed behind the units.

A Kading property in Madison County appeared congested to Freeman. However, a second Osceola development Kading has in the works will be more spread out.

“The reoccurring theme that we’re getting here in Creston happened in Osceola ... they had the same phenomenon where everybody was opposed to it coming in, but once they come in, it was amazing. They can’t seem to build them fast enough to accommodate renters,” said Freeman.

“The one thing that amazed me when we drove up to them, she could’ve told us they were two or three years old and I would’ve believed her,” said Wintermute. “And, they were built in ‘96 and they were very nice.”

Freeman said the units Kading has developed in other areas has not slowed the growth of their communities and neighboring developments, such as single, family housing.

Wintermute said, since he’s lived in the area, he has heard the plea for housing.

“After talking with Winterset and Osceola, I’m not sure we need to give them the farm,” said Freeman. “They’ve obviously been able to make other communities work and be very successful without giving them a ton of stuff.”

City Administrator Mike Taylor said city officials won’t proceed with the project until the council gives direction to do so.

“It’s going to take some legal help to put together a development agreement. It costs a little bit of money and I didn’t want to go out on a limb and do that until I had some direction from the council,” he said.

“I know we’ve talked in the finance committee ... about not wanting to take out any money to cover the initial costs,” said Gabe Carroll, ward 3 representative.

Carroll said he’s in favor of a development of the sort if a new location is considered and as long as Kading Properites know that the upfront costs should be absorbed by Kading and returned to them in the form of a tax refund.

A motion to proceed with exploring their options was moved by Wintermute, seconded by Freeman and unanimously approve by the council.

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