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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Based on recommendations from the plan commission, the Colfax Village Board has approved changes to the developer’s agreement for the East View Residential Community lots.
The changes approved by the village board for single family residential lots at the September 9 meeting include de-emphasizing the $175,000 value of the house, requiring the developer to bring plans to the Colfax Plan Commission for review, prohibiting natural lawns, and decreasing the number of trees required from four to at least one tree.
Phase I of the residential development on the southeast side of Colfax along Dunn Street contains six lots the village is offering “for free” to a developer or to an individual.
Five of the free lots remain in Phase I.
The village board also approved a developer’s agreement for the multi-family home lots in Phase II of the development.
Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, noted people who were interested in the lots seemed hesitant to move forward because of prohibited exterior materials included in the original agreement.
The section in the previous developer’s agreement stated. “The Developer guarantees the building materials for the exterior of the home shall be brick, natural stone, wood clapboard, wood shingle, fiber cement siding, or engineered wood siding. Vinyl siding, imitation brick, or metal siding is prohibited.”
Instead of listing materials that are allowed or not allowed, a section has been substituted stating the developer will bring the plans to the plan commission for review, Niggemann said.
“That will allow us to ask questions at the meeting (about the plans),” she said.
The value for the single family homes is $15,000 for the lot and $160,000 for the house.
The value for multi-family homes is $190,000 for an owner-occupied two-bedroom per unit duplex; $200,000 for a two bedroom per unit duplex rental; and $380,000 for two-bedroom four-plex units, Niggemann said.
The value for a two bedroom, two car garage per unit four-plex would be $625,000, and the value for a two bedroom per unit eight-plex would be $750,000, she said.
The village wants to “get them in the door” for conversation and have people “come and talk to us,” said Scott Gunnufson, village president.
Twin homes could be built on the lots in Phase I, which would reduce the number of lots available, Niggemann said.
The houses in Phase I must either be built on a slab or must have a “lift” in the basement to reach the sewer system, said Rand Bates, director of public works.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the recommended changes to the developer’s agreement for single family homes and approved the developer’s agreement for multi-family homes.
Ricky Brockmiller, who owns the only house that has been built in East View so far, arrived at the village board meeting after the village board had moved past the public comments portion of the meeting.
Brockmiller asked to speak to the board about the East View development.
The reason people are not building in East View, Brockmiller said, is because of the property taxes.
Brockmiller told the board that the annual property tax on his house amounts to $5,300, which he considered to be unreasonable since there is “nothing here” in Colfax.
“It’s kind of crazy. That’s why they’re not building,” he said.
Bates asked what Brockmiller meant by “nothing here.”
Brockmiller said he had previously lived in Altoona, which has more grocery stores and “more things to do” and that he could have bought a house of similar value in Altoona or Eau Claire and paid less in property taxes and would have been “farther ahead.”
Several village board members noted the amount of property tax in a municipality depends on the tax base to share the tax burden.
The lots also are too small and should be a half acre to a full acre, Brockmiller said.
“It’s not worth the taxes,” he said.
Village Trustee Chad Berge noted people are looking for five-acre parcels in the country, “but they’re hard to find.”
In small towns, “taxes are a problem,” and it’s worthwhile to “try to find the positives” of living in a small town, he said.
Berge said he finds living in Colfax to be enjoyable.
The only control the village has is over the village’s mill rate, but tax bills also include property taxes for the school district, Chippewa Valley Technical College and the county, Gunnufson said.
The plan commission and the village board are trying to attract “more valuation” to Colfax, either through additional houses being built or new businesses coming into the village, he said.
Brockmiller wondered why the village had purchased the lots and said it would have been better for a developer to purchase the land.
The land was only available to the village. At one time, the property owner thought the land was sold to a developer, but the deal fell through, and the property owner was hesitant to trying selling land to another developer, explained Anne Jenson, village trustee.
There were no lots to build on in Colfax, Gunnufson said, noting that the lack of available lots had been identified as a problem during the process of updating the village’s comprehensive land use plan.
Regarding multi-family houses, Brockmiller said no one would want to build a new house next to an area with duplexes.
Jenson pointed out her parents live in a lovely duplex.
The Tweed duplex properties in Colfax are outstanding, Gunnufson said.
Duplexes would be beneficial in Colfax because there is a lack of housing for the elderly, Berge said.
Brockmiller thanked the village board for listening to his complaints about the property taxes.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s website, for property taxes that were levied in 2017 and collected in 2018, Colfax had an effective mill rate of $25.67 per $1,000 of property value, while the village of Elk Mound had an effective mill rate of $23.82 and Boyceville was $20.62. Wheeler had an effective mill rate of $22.10 per $1,000 of property value.
The City of Altoona had an effective mill rate of $20.73 per $1,000 of property value, and the City of Augusta was $21.55. The City of Eau Claire’s effective mill rate was $20.87 per $1,000 of property value.
With all other factors being equal (taxes levied for the county, school district and CVTC), at the 2017 tax rate, a $100,000 house in Elk Mound would pay about $185 per year less in property taxes than a house in Colfax. A $100,000 house in Boyceville would pay about $500 per year less in taxes. A $100,000 house in Wheeler would pay about $350 per year less in taxes.
A $100,000 house in Altoona also would pay about $500 less per year in taxes.
The village of Colfax does not add special assessments to property taxes for curb, gutter and sidewalk or other improvements.
The Colfax school district’s mill rate for this year is $7.99 per $1,000 of property value, compared to $8.26 for Elk Mound, $9.02 for Boyceville, $9.76 for Glenwood City, and $10.19 for Bloomer.
The state average for school district mill rates is $9.44 per $1,000 of property value.
The Colfax Village Board also approved Lot 7 in Phase II to be offered to a developer for free.
Jenson wondered if the village board would allow one developer to obtain more than one free lot.
If a developer wanted more than one free lot, that would be a request to bring to Niggemann, who would in turn bring it before the village board for discussion and possible approval, Gunnufson said.
Tax Increment Finance District incentives would be available for lots in Phase II, Niggemann said.
For the life of the TIF district, the village receives 100 percent of the property taxes generated by the buildings constructed, she noted.
The village “needs to get something there … and get moving,” Niggemann said.
Without any development, there is no added value, she noted.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved offering Lot 7 for free.
Village Trustee Carey Davis was absent from the meeting.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Tiffany Reed (Kyle’s Market) for September 9, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
• Approved authorizing Bates to review the dimensions for a cost-sharing request for a sidewalk at 502 Balsam Street and then to put the request into the budget for 2020. The village had budgeted $2,000 for 2019, and $1,689 has been used, Niggemann said.
• Accepted a bid from Savvy Home Solutions, Inc. out of Menomonie in the amount of $8,678 to fasten the existing steel to the ceiling of the Department of Public Works building on Railroad Avenue and install new steel where necessary.
During a closed session under Wisconsin statute 19.85(1)(e) deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session — the Colfax Village Board agreed to be in full support of a medical facility coming into the village. The village board also agreed to “show sponsorship” for any grants that may be needed for a medical facility to come into the village.
The provisions of the statute refer to purchasing public property, investing public funds or bargaining under competitive circumstances and allows a closed session to protect the public interest.
It was not clear from the meeting notice or information available from the village board why the board felt justified going into closed session to make a general statement saying the village board would be in “full support” or “show sponsorship” for a medical facility or how the closed session protected the public interest.