On April 5, i2i will open bidding on 22 lots in Clarion’s northeast corner, near Clarion-Goldfield High School. It is Clarion’s first development project since six lots on South Pointe Lane were opened around 2005. Here are the basics on the project:
Where Is It?
The White Fox Landing development covers 23 lots in Clarion’s northeast corner, near Clarion-Goldfield High School. One lot has been designated for construction of a spec home.
The City acquired 6 acres for the development in May 2013 from the Clarion-Goldfield School District in a trade for ownership of the football field, both properties being appraised at comparable fair market values. The land was then sold to the non-profit development group i2i – “Invest 2 Improve” – which was formed for the purpose of this development. I2i also purchased 17.89 acres of farmland for the development from Larry Nelson and Ruth Boey for around $360,000.
Several members of i2i described Clarion as being especially “land-locked” to expansion. According to Jon DeVries, public works director for Clarion and member of i2i, the area was selected because it was not in a flood plain, and for ease of access and utility extension. The property will feature a retention pond to help control the area water table. “It’s not a toe-dipper,” DeVries said of the pond. “It’ll be close to what a prairie area would be. It’s going to be planted with wildflowers and prairie grass.”
Part of the land slated for development is presently used by members of the community as a soccer field, though land along the present Willow Drive – beneath which the High School installed wells for its geothermal heating system– will still be available for soccer. All area residents will have direct access to their homes during the infrastructure development, which may begin as early as late April.
A future ‘phase two’ may feature multi-family units, similar in concept to the duplexes on 6th Ave NE, as well as 10 more individual lots. Phase 3 may add nine more individual lots.
I2i members cited concerns about a housing shortage in Clarion.
“We formed specifically to drive the new subdivision,” said Carol Haupt of i2i. “We’ve been talking about one for 15 plus years, and at any development meeting – with schools or businesses – housing was a frontmost issue. It’s just taken this long to get the project moving. The missing component was ground and a developer, because there’s no profit in it.”
Dave Maxheimer of i2i and director of human resources for Hagie Manufacturing, said that Hagie has added 212 new jobs in the last 3 years, though fewer than half of those employees live within Wright County.
To encourage purchasers to build homes, lots will have a minimum assessed value of $200,000 on the January 1 following the anniversary of the lot’s sale. Lots sold for below fair market value legally require City Council approval.
How is the development being financed?
The City of Clarion is responsible for installing the development’s infrastructure (including roads, sewer, and electric and gas utilities). They are borrowing money and will be selling bonds to cover the costs based on Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) forecasts, which allows them to allocate projected future property tax revenue to pay back the costs.
Haupt said the payback is expected to take 17 years. “It’s not a quick payback,” said Pohlman. “With any project, that’s the time-frame.”
Pohlman cited other areas of town – including the land for Pamida, Hardees, Super Foods, and First Citizens National Bank – that have been built with TIF financing. The City and i2i also referenced Humboldt and area towns who they say have expanded residential lots through TIF.
Ron Fiscus of Planscape Partners estimated a $2.75 million total cost for the project at the Feb 17 City Council meeting. Final cost will be determined based on bids due March 13, in time to present at the Council’s March 17 meeting.
I2i will sell the property at a residential lot auction on April 5. I2i purchased the lots, in part, from loans through Cornbelt Power and Prairie Energy. By selling the lots through i2i, the City avoids what i2i described as “cumbersome land conveyance practices” in a business plan outline, including a requirement to hold a public hearing after each lot sold individually. All proceeds from the auction will go towards paying off the loans, with any profits going to the City. “There’s no profit, no financial gain for anyone in our group,” said Haupt. “We formed to get the process going.”
South Pointe Lane – built in the mid-2000s – was heretofore Clarion’s most recent housing development. It was financed without public assistance entirely by private citizens Pam and Mike Whitters, who built a house for themselves on one of the development’s six lots. Pam described the overall process as challenging, but noted that the final cost of the project was ultimately divided equally among the lots’ purchasers.
What may houses look like?
Housing agreements with i2i will have a set of protective covenants designed to facilitate unified aesthetics. “It’s those kinds of controls that are going to make sure this is the style of development that we’ve all been talking about,” said Ron Fiscus. Among the drafted covenants:
- Houses must have a minimum ground-floor square footage of 1,400
- All houses’ exterior walls must be decorated “in sets of white, grey or brown/tan/taupe”
- Utility buildings must be consistent with design of the property, no more than 144 square feet, and not exceed one in number
- All houses must have garages, and all garages must be attached
The draft of covenants also allows exceptions for cases of “significant architectural merit.”
Update from the March 3 Supervisors meeting
On March 3, the Wright County Supervisors heard a request presented by the City of Clarion and the non-profit developer i2i for support to help cover $211,000 to re-route power lines underground for the White Fox Landing development. 22 lots at the development are slated for auction April 5. The City had previously estimated the re-routing’s cost at close to $100,000, which had not factored in about $85,000 in charges from Mid-American Energy to remove the area’s existing poles and lines. These lines presently run above-ground through the development’s planned retention pond. Wright County has not yet put any money toward the project, the infrastructure for which is being paid for by the City of Clarion and the lots for which are being sold by i2i. The City of Clarion and i2i argue that the development will benefit all of Wright by keeping more local employees, their taxes, and commerce within the County.
Read more about the Project and the Supervisors’ meeting in theMarch 6 issue of the Monitor.