By ERICKA WERLING
The Abilene City Commission Monday approved a final plat for the Dawson’s Cottage Addition and a development agreement with Abilene developers Scott and Maureen Dawson Monday, but denied approval of public improvements for the newest phase of construction.
Maureen Dawson said that the couple has developed four of six phases of development since the mid-1990s.
“We have always paid the cost,” she said.
The motion to approve the resolution for creating the improvement district was made by Commission Dennis Weishaar, but died for a lack of a second.
Commissioners said they were concerned about providing the funds because two other developments The Highlands and Cedar Ridge Estates have become delinquent. Weishaar, in making the motion, said that should not affect what the Dawsons want to do. He said one developer was from Canada and the other were former Abilene residents.
“To hold the Dawsons accountable for other’s mistakes is not the way to go. The difference for me is Scott and Maureen live here. This is their home of choice,” Weishaar said.
The newest development would create 20 smaller homes to be built between Pizza Hut and Campbell Drive on North Buckeye Avenue.
“We’re providing a different area than what is available now,” Maureen Dawson said. “It would help stimulate the economy by providing a new source of construction.”
She also noted the trickle down effect of purchases at other stores.
According to City Manager David Dillner, Scott and Maureen Dawson petitioned the city to design and construct certain public improvements (water, sanitary sewer, streets, and storm sewer) related to Dawson's Cottage Addition. The construction of the improvements would have been financed using temporary notes and then rolled over into 10-year General Obligation (G.O.) bonds. The bonds would have been repaid from special assessments levied against the properties included in the benefit improvement district. Dillner said that by denying approval of the authorizing resolution, the Dawsons may proceed with the project, but will have to do so without the use of benefit district financing.
Maureen Dawson said they were prepared to pay a surety of 35 percent, which translated into $140,000.
“We have always paid the cost,” she said.
The special assessments are eventually paid by the buyer of the property.
According to information provided by Dillner, the city has about a 13-month inventory on existing houses. He said city staff is concerned that additional General Obligations debt backed by special assessments will put the city and taxpayers at further risk for delinquencies. The city anticipates $221,000 in delinquent special assessments by June, and an additional $172,000 in delinquent special assessments by January 2014.
Commissioner Brenda Finn-Bowers said her decision to not support the improvement district was not a personal one against the Dawsons.
The second major theme at the meeting was the topic of water. The commission, at the recommendation of staff, declared a Water Emergency. After considerable thought, staff has developed a water emergency implementation plan that provides an outline for how the city intends to implement the water emergency. Effective upon publication in the official newspaper, the city will enact the following Level 1 Water Emergency measures to discourage non-essential uses of water:
Emergency water rates will be implemented. Residential water rates will double for all consumption above 15,000 gallons. Commercial rates will no longer decrease above 225,000 gallons, but will remain $0.325 per 100 gallons for all consumption levels. This will also apply to outside water customers.
New service connections fees will be doubled.
The following uses of water will be suspended: bulk water sales, fire hydrant flushing, washing of the city fleet, rinse-out and inspection of water towers, and new tree plantings by the city.
The waste of water will be strongly discouraged.
In addition to these measures, the City Commission approved Ordinance No. 3232 that amends Section 7-1003(c) of the City Code pertaining the water conservation program. This ordinance allows the city to request from the Chief Engineer, Division of Water Resources, Kansas Department of Agriculture, the authority to regulate private, or domestic, wells within the city limits. The chief engineer would review the conditions and the city's water conservation plan to determine if there was a sufficient reason to grant authority. If approval is granted, the city would have the ability to apply the same regulations on private wells that are applied to public water customers. Once the circumstances that warranted regulation of private wells is relieved, private wells would no longer be subject to municipal regulation.