Council listens to proposal for workforce housing

 Issuance of revenue bonds and re-financing of current bonds was one of several items on the Wayne City Council's  agenda on Tuesday.

Phil Lorenzen with D.A. Davidson spoke to the council on why now is a good time to both issue bonds for long-term financing for the costs associated with previous projects undertaken by the city and re-finance current bonds at a lower interest rate. It is estimated that the re-financing could save the city $25,000 over the term of the bonds.

The two ordinances connected with the issuance of the bonds were approved and three readings waived to allow for the process to move forward and take advantage of the current interest rates.

Taking considerable time during the meeting was a presentation by Thomas Kayton of Seward on the possibility of building workforce housing in Wayne.

Kayton said he has been in communication with Megan Weaver with Wayne Community Housing Development in regard to housing needs in Wayne and the possibility of getting LB518 funding to reduce the cost of rent on the project.

"Our focus is on workforce housing for those employed in industries in Wayne. Studies show that only 15 percent of those employed at Great Dane live in Wayne. There is a demand for housing of all types and having these people live in Wayne would keep the money here," Kayton said.

His preliminary plan would involve the building of a three story, 24-unit apartment building. It would include two- and three-bedroom units. Depending on the grant funding received, a certain percentage of these units would need to be rented to those in the workforce.

Kayton said the area in the southeast portion of the city, south of Fourth Street is being considered for the development. This area is owned by the city and currently home to the Community Gardens and the city's tree farm.

Council member Jennifer Sievers said that in her mind, "houses are for families, not apartments. I was hoping we were going to bring more homes into the community." 

Council member Jason Karsky agreed with Sievers, saying "I would like to see more housing in Wayne. I feel this is a home with a garage and a backyard. We (council) will have to do a good job of selling this project to the public."

Weaver said of the project "24 units is a good start. There is a need for more housing, especially for those workers who can't afford to buy a house, not only because of the cost, but things like taxes and insurance. We need to make sure there is housing for those living outside Wayne or those who are currently living in undesirable housing."

Council members discussed what would need to be done to make the area available for housing, including having it re-platted and re-zoned. Also of importance was finding a place for the Community Gardens to go and informing the public of the move.

Council members gave a general approval to move forward on determining if this project is feasible.

Two public hearings were held in regard to assessments for street and sanitary sewer improvements for the Fourth Street Project.

During the first of these hearings, Lou Benscoter, who owns property in the area, told the council that he was concerned with the fact that there was an extra $30,000 in engineering costs associated with the project. Of this amount, he would be asked to pay almost half.

"The hiring of an engineer wasn't handled properly. I already had an engineer who had done work (on the project) but the city chose to hire someone else," Benscoter said.

After discussion, council members voted to table a vote on the resolutions for both the street improvement district and the sanitary sewer improvement until research can be done on past council actions.

Also on Tuesday's agenda was an update on park fee ordinances.

The city of Wayne has the option to assess a fee when a new development is created or request land for a park. It was noted that in the past, developers have been allowed to make the decision on which of these takes place. 

Council members felt they should be more involved in the decision-making process.

Resolution 2019-18 was approved by council. It will amend the city's investment policy to reflect the name changes of all the banks in Wayne. The rate of return on investments will remain the same.

The Wayne City Council will next meet in regular session on Tuesday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.


The Wayne Herald

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