Support for county housing initiative grows
WORTHINGTON — The Nobles Home Initiative continues to pick up support as the program to offer 100 percent tax abatement on new home construction is taken on the road to outlying communities in the county.
On Friday night, the Round Lake City Council became the latest to support the concept after the Brewster City Council offered its support April 2. Nobles County commissioners, the Worthington City Council and the District 518 Board of Education approved the concept in March.
The program will now be presented to communities on the western side of the county in a 7 p.m. meeting April 23 at the Adrian Elementary School. City Council and school board representatives, as well as the general public, are invited to the meeting to hear about the program.
At this time, communities are still simply approving the tax abatement concept.
Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said Monday that plans are to complete an official resolution by the end of this week for cities and school districts to formally adopt.
“Every community that wants it will be able to tweak it for their community, but the goal is to make it so simple that they won’t need to tweak it,” Johnson said.
The tax abatement plan, while called the Nobles Home Initiative, was developed by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. WREDC Manager Abraham Algadi has said the tax abatement will help mitigate risks of new developments and promote new construction.
The city of Worthington has had a housing shortage for years, and outlying communities have also noticed similar shortages.
“Every (city meeting) that I’ve been at, they’ve said yes, there are buildable lots in the community,” Johnson said. “They have places where people can come and build — Worthington does, Brewster and Round Lake said they did.”
In Worthington, a housing study completed in 2013 showed approximately 30 lots available for single-family and townhome construction within the city limits.
“Our comprehensive plan does illustrate where future residential development will take place,” explained Brad Chapulis, the city’s director of community and economic development. Those areas identified for residential expansion include Glenwood Heights and West Park Acres west of Olson Park campground, Homewood Hills north of Worthington Middle School and an area on the southeast corner of town, just east of Nobles County 5.
Algadi said there has been little progress in new housing development in Worthington in recent years, and he’s hopeful the tax abatement will convince contractors to come to the county.
“We have not had too many developers or builders step up because of the cost of developing lots — the cost of getting the water, sewer and streets,” Algadi said. “It’s a heavy cost to be carried by developers.”
While the formal resolutions have yet to be passed, Algadi said, “If a builder tomorrow or an investor today comes to us and says, ‘I want to build,’ they will be able to take advantage of the tax abatement program.
“We want to get the program ready for this construction season,” he said, adding that a marketing campaign will begin to alert contractors to the housing initiative.
As for when Nobles County might see its first residential development project, Algadi said, “I wish I could tell you tomorrow. These projects take time.
“We can develop the best program in the world to address any problem, but if nobody knows about it, it won’t go anywhere.”
Algadi said he is heartened by the broad support and reception the housing initiative has received thus far. Johnson is optimistic the remaining communities and school districts will support the program.
“It just makes so much sense,” Johnson said. “(Housing is) a real issue across the whole county, across the whole region, honestly.
“We’re just hoping it’s successful,” he added.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.