The Decorah City Council, in a 5-2 vote, entered into a purchase agreement that would sell city property to 3chicsrental LLC.
The vote followed a public hearing held at two city council meetings beginning on January 19 and continuing to the Monday, Feb.1 meeting and concerned the sale of city property located at the intersection of Hwy. 9 and 52. The tract lies behind KAR Auto Group’s Ford dealership and was formerly leased by the Fox & Coon Club. Council members Emily Neal and Andy Carlson cast the dissenting votes.
According to the purchase agreement Kelly Bachelder, owner of 3chicsrental LLC, will pay the city $475,000 for the approximately 6.6-acre parcel of land, will begin commercial development within 24 months and complete a development project within a 3-year time period. Should that development not occur, the city will re-purchase the property from the buyer.
The most discussed aspect of the sale regarded easements for utilities. The purchase agreement dictates that the city and developer will have to replat the final parcel size to accommodate possible storm water, water and sewer easements on the lot’s south line.
Other council concerns centered on selling a property whose value will likely only increase.
“It seems that we’re giving up an awful lot,” said Councilor Neal. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Community Development Block Grants
Nathan Thompson, with Upper Explorerland Regional
Planning Commission, addressed the council about the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. “CDBG’s were not previously an option in Decorah, but the rules have been revised,” Thompson said. The grants provide up to $24,999 for low to middle-income homeowners for home improvement and energy efficiency projects.
Thompson said typical projects include exterior improvements addressing roofing and siding, as well as energy efficiency improvements that may include door or window replacements or improvements to insulation. “We’ll need to identify households that are eligible for the program, as well as guide them through the application process, which is pretty long and involved.”
The CDBG program would also involve “city approval at several different points” according to Thompson who plans to propose a contract with the city council at the next meeting. “This has been a popular program in other communities that have been eligible,” Thompson said.
City Manager Chad Bird added, “These types of programs are really a boost for housing in communities like Decorah. We are excited about the changes in the program, at the Federal level, that now make this program a good fit for our community. I am hopeful residents will take advantage of the opportunity to make improvements to their homes.”
In other matters, the council adopted a Maximum Tax Levy rate of 12.85 per thousand for the July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022. City manager Bird noted this was the second year the state has required cities to adopt such a max levy.
City Clerk / Treasurer Wanda Hemesath noted, “The max levy rate can be misleading as it is a calculation of the maximum amount a city could levy for certain funds such as the general fund and employee benefits. It does not include the debt service fund levy or any community voted levies.”
Acting on the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council adopted an updated Floodplain Management code that would bring city codes in agreement with revised Department of Natural Resources (DNR) guidelines. “The last time the city visited this issue was 2008, in response to flooding that year,” Bird said.
The next meeting of the Decorah City Council is Monday, Feb. 15 at 5:45pm.