Ordinance to reduce costs of developersCity Council members made their first comments on a proposed ordinance concerning real estate development at its regular meeting Monday. The draft ordinance requires the developers to pay 25 percent of the cost of water and sewer mains, raising streets and alleys to grade, providing slope protection to prevent erosion, surfacing streets and alleys, constructing curbs and gutters and provide any necessary storm sewers, culverts or bridges.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
City Council members made their first comments on a proposed ordinance concerning real estate development at its regular meeting Monday.
The draft ordinance requires the developers to pay 25 percent of the cost of water and sewer mains, raising streets and alleys to grade, providing slope protection to prevent erosion, surfacing streets and alleys, constructing curbs and gutters and provide any necessary storm sewers, culverts or bridges.
The City Council also can require the developer to pay costs associated with sound barriers, green spaces and street lights as part of approving the development.
The rest of the costs would be paid by the city and special assessed to the lots of the development.
The current ordinance requires developers to pay 100 percent of the cost of water and sewer mains, raise alleys and streets to grade and provide at least a gravel surface. The cost of curb, gutter and pavement is paid by the city and charged to the lots as special assessments.
Mayor Katie Andersen also said a clause in the ordinance that requires all developments be approved by the City Council should be strengthened.
“Is it clear enough (in the ordinance language) that we’ll look at every project,” she said. “If we are taking on the liability the city should be protected on each development.”
Councilman Steve Brubakken questioned how the council could research which potential developments had the best chances of succeeding.
“The ordinance would have to have standards,” said Ken Dalsted, city attorney. “You can’t just make capricious decisions.”
Andersen said the authority on which developments are allowed should rest with the City Council.
“The City Council as the governing body guides where the development goes,” she said.
Councilman Dan Buchanan asked if the 25 percent requirement was sufficient.
“We’re not trapped by what happened in the past but I remember it,” he said. “I don’t think 25 percent is enough skin in the game. I would be more comfortable with 50 percent.”
In the 1980s numerous developers defaulted on lots with high special assessment balances shortly after the developments were finished. The city took possession of those lots for back taxes but had to recover the special assessment costs by other tax levies.
The ordinance will have its second reading during the December City Council meeting and would not be enacted until after the January meeting.
“Everyone needs to review this,” Andersen said. “We have two more chances for comments.”
The ordinance can be amended by the council at any time during the process.
In other business, the City Council approved the audit report by Schaurer and Associates. The 2011 audit indicated the city had received revenues of $1.4 million more than budgeted but also incurred expenses of $740,000 over budget primarily due to flooding.
Council members also approved $15,000 for engineering work to design a short-term solution to the water treatment plant problems.
North Dakota Health Department officials prohibited the water treatment plant from recycling water used to back flush the filters because it was being stored in outdoor open ponds. The city is now pumping back wash water into the ponds and leaving it there.
The ponds have capacity to hold the back wash water for about six weeks before overflowing. Reed Schwartzkopf, city engineer, hopes to have a short-term plan in effect by then with work on a long-term solution as part of the city’s capital project plan in the future.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com