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Housing program concerns homeowners

Staff writer

Willow Glen Homeowners’ Association in Hillsboro is worried that a proposed affordable housing program could lower their property values.

Hillsboro City Council is considering donating lots in Willow Glen to Mennonite Housing. Lots would be used in a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development affordable housing program.

David Mathis of the association spoke to City Council members Tuesday and asked several questions about the program:

  • What types of houses would be built, and would a minimum value be established?
  • Would there be a provision to ensure completion of all projects?
  • Would new residents be advised of the requirement to participate in the homeowners’ association, including annual dues?
  • Could alot donation first be offered to current Willow Glen homeowners?

Houses in the program would be of comparable quality to existing homes in Willow Glen, Hillsboro Development Corp. Executive Director Clint Seibel said. They likely would be smaller than average homes in the subdivision.

Seibel stressed that houses in the program are neither prefabricated nor for rentals. In addition to income requirements, participants must have acceptable credit history, employment, and be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Homeowners have worked hard to build equity in Willow Glen, Mathis said.

“This is an emotional issue,” he said. “This would only add insult to injury.”

The city has nine lots for sale in the subdivision, with an asking price of $5,000 each, City Administrator Larry Paine said.

The city only is considering donating lots based on a guarantee that houses would be built on them.

“It’s important for a house to be built,” he said.

The city could donate a lot to an individual on the condition that a house be built on it, Seibel said.

A representative from Mennonite Housing will meet with individuals and address concerns about the program 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Scout House at Memorial Park. The meeting’s original purpose was to gauge if there is enough interest in Hillsboro to warrant it.

No tax increase for 2010

The council approved the city’s 2010 budget, which will require no property tax increase. The levy will remain at 43.134 mills.

“It’s a lot better than the first one we saw,” council member Shelby Dirks said.

The city instead will raise revenue by increasing the monthly cost for an electric meter from $5 to $9 and transfer money to its general fund, Paine said.

The 2010 budget is about $8.4 million; the 2009 budget is more than $9 million. Property taxes provide $630,000 of the city’s budget, Paine said. That is a close second to property taxes.

In other business:

  • The city will lease 38 acres of farmland to Cooperative Grain and Supply for $75 per acre for five years. The company will use the land for a marketing venture. The lease is more than $25 above the going rate, Seibel said. Council member Kevin Suderman recused himself from the decision because of a conflict of interest because of business interests.
  • A portable generator will be purchased from Caterpillar for $36,222. It will be used during power outages to prevent sewer back-ups into customers’ basements. Stanion Wholesale Electric bid $45,317, and Central Power Systems and Service bid $43,152.
  • The council met in closed session for 15 minutes to discuss personnel matters at the request of council member Byron McCarty.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 18.

Last modified Aug. 6, 2009

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