By J.R. SPARKE
Contributor to the
Two 3-2 votes were cast Tuesday by the Herington City Commission on the waiving of special assessments on privately-owned undeveloped lots in the Logan Pointe residential housing sub-division.
Waiver requests had been submitted by Lynn and Anne Otte of Herington, who own a lot at 1458 Gehrke Court, and by the Herington Economic Development Corporation, which owns three lots with addresses not specified during the commission’s regular semimonthly meeting.
During previous meetings, the commission waived special assessments on three Logan Pointe lots on which occupied homes were located. This was in accordance with a resolution adopted by the governing body in November 2012.
However, City Manager Ron Strickland recommended in written report that the same relief be granted to the Otte couple and the HEDC. He based this upon the city recently receiving quit-claim deeds to several lots owned by Iron Horse Development LLC under an agreement with IHD managing partner Ross Boelling of Tonganoxie and other investors, who are primarily local residents.
“These properties (owned by the Otte couple and the HEDC) will not have a chance to sell, given the city owning lots and (the city) would make a deal to get a house built,” the city manager wrote in the report.
“It is my recommendation to put all players on the same level playing field and release the specials attached to these properties,” he added, noting the special assessments had been paid in the past and were currently up to date.
Commissioner D.J. Neuberger objected to the city manager’s recommendation, alleging it sounded like a bail-out to him.
“Somebody made a bad choice,” he said, referring to the purchase of the lots in the sub-division.
Mayor Robbin Bell said the commission had waived the special assessments in three other cases. However, Commissioners Neuberger and Chuck Miller noted the owners had met the criteria set forth in the resolution.
The mayor added that removing the assessments would “cheapen” the lots if they were to be sold. He said he favored a program to offer the lots free of charge, if the buyers agreed to build houses on the properties. Later in the meeting, the mayor also said he favored offering undeveloped city-owned commercial lots free of charge. His comment was met favorably by fellow commission members.
Mayor Bell moved to waive the assessments on the Otte property. Commissioner Fred Olsen seconded. The motion passed, 3-2, with the mayor and Commissioners Beth Wade and Olsen casting “yes” votes, while Commissioners Neuberger and Miller cast “no” votes.
The motion, second and voting on waiving the assessments on the lots owned by the HEDC followed the same pattern.
Following the commission meeting, members of the local Planning Commission met to discuss changing the covenants on the Logan Pointe lots that specify the nature of construction and landscaping with the intent making both less formal.
In another matter, the commission heard from rural Herington resident Tom Biehler about his interest in purchasing privately-owned property at 701 East Arnold St., which is adjacent to agricultural land he owns.
Biehler sought to have a $5,200 special assessment on the property waived. The city assessed the amount based upon the cost to have a house on the property demolished.
Commissioner Neuberger suggested that the owner, who was not specified at the meeting, needed to pay the assessment.
It also was suggested the Biehler and the owner should negotiate a selling price that would take into account the assesment.
Biehler said the owner claimed he was unaware of the lien on the property.
Commissioner Olsen said it needed to be determined what other obligations there were against the property before the matter could be considered further.
City Clerk Debbie Wendt also mentioned that the property is currently zoned as residential, and that would need to be changed if Biehler bought the land and wanted to convert it for farming purposes.
Biehler said he would pursue the matter after a purchase agreement was reached. He said he wasn’t interested in the property, which includes three lots, if the special assessment was not waived.
The matter was tabled until a later date.
Eight resolutions were adopted regarding demolition of structures on eight properties which have been on a city abatement list for several months. Under the terms of the resolutions, the owners have 30 days to correct health and safety deficiencies before the city steps into have the buildings demolished and the associated costs assessed to the property owners.
The following is a list of the addresses and the owners of record: 18 North 12th St., Lois Kleist of Herington; 18 South Seventh St., Nancy K. Ray of Lincolnville; 109 West Walnut St., Larry Lawrenz of Herington; 114 South Second St., Leon and Marcia Baronda of rural Herington; 210 South 10th St., Cheryl and Richard J. McFarland of Herington; 801 West Walnut St., Vendee Mortgage of Wichita; 812 West Day St., Allen Church of Marion; and 204 South 11th St., Mary Ann Epperson of Lindale, Texas. Fire Chief Ken Staatz, who recommends which properties will be subject to the abatement process, said Epperson has in her possession documents that indicate she has sold the property, but the information has been noted been filed with Dickinson County officials, it was noted.
Unanimous 5-0 votes were cast on all resolutions, with the exception of 204 South 11th. Commissioner Neuberger cast a “no” vote.
City Attorney Brad Jantz said a resolution “goes with the property”, if and when the ownership question is clarified.
Removed from the abatement list was property located at 310 South Second St. Chief Staatz said owner Dawn Engle, who lives at the same address, had taken the necessary corrective actions.
Commissioners also adopted a resolution in support of the formation of a hospital district. The resolution was the outgrowth of action taken by the city commission during a July 16 special meeting.
The governing body additionally approved the written form for the leasing of city-owned agricultural land in the city limits, at the Herington Regional Airport and near Lake Herington and the Herington Reservoir.
The commission also appointed Mary Ann Schlesener of Herington to the Hilltop Advisory Board. Her term is to expire March 20, 2016.
Commissioners also were in agreement to advertise that there are two vacancies on the Herington Housing Authority board.
HHA Executive Director Debbie Goembel said state statute specifies that at least one resident is to serve on the board, but otherwise does not specify membership qualifications. She also distributed an informational packets to the commissioners.
In another matter, commissioner Neuberger asked about the progress on a handicapped accessibility evaluation being conducted in Herington by OCCK personnel from Salina. Strickland said OCCK representatives had visited Herington recently, but left when one person became ill. He said he would contact OCCK about when a second visit is planned.
Commissioner Neuberger also complimented street department personnel for clearing low-hanging tree limbs from bus routes. He added that residents with trees located along streets need to make sure they have monitored the growth of the trees and carried out trimming work.
Herington resident Cynthia Naylor said it would be helpful if the city could help with the collection of limbs after trimming was completed.
In two annual matters, the commission adopted by ordinances the Standard Traffic Ordinance (2013 edition) and Uniform Public Offense Code (2013 edition).
The next regularly-scheduled city commission meeting is slated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. The meeting will include a budget hearing.