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Council approves economic development strategic plan

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington City Council had an extensive discussion at its regular Monday meeting concerning community economic development.

Along with the city's population growth, there have been challenges which need to be addressed.

Worthington Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee presented a proposal to council which outlined four major challenges: job creation, housing, community image and community amenities.

"This wasn't intended to be a city effort only," said City Administrator, Craig Clark. "We try to look at it multi-faceted and how we can bring all parties together to improve economic development."

The housing goal received most attention. While the city has several initiatives geared toward lower income housing, Clark said there has been a scarcity of higher priced homes.

"There are really no tools in the toolbox for homes over $200,000," he said.

The idea is to assess single family dwellings at market value of $200,000 or more, and create five-year, 100 percent tax abatement program.

In addition to home buyers, the program is designed to encourage local contractors, who undertake a tax risk when they build spec houses.

"The house, when I build it, becomes my inventory, and it is like a personal property tax," said Lyle Voss, local builder.

Targeted implementation deadline by the ad hoc committee is January 2012.

"I think we're realistic about it but by the same token we want to push things in the right direction," Clark explained.

In other business Monday, the council:

* Approved a management agreement for the Worthington Area YMCA senior center coordinator. The coordinator will work from the current senior center location. Due to space restriction, at the present location, some senior activities will be conducted at the YMCA.

* Awarded the four-unit airport hangar bid, with a 10 percent contingency, to Everstrong Construction. The total projected cost is $464,306, which is a lower amount than the allocated budget of $534,518.22. The cost will be funded partly by the City's hospital sale proceeds, a loan from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Aeronautics Division, and a 50 percent matching grant from MnDOT for the site, hangar floor and footings.

* Approved a grant agreement between the Minnesota Department of Public Health and Worthington Police Department, which will reimburse the police department for alcohol compliance checks. The grant is valid through May 31, 2012.