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Rock County creates program to spur housing growth

Rock County Home Initiative approved its first two requests for five-year tax abatement last week. The applicants are constructing single family homes -- one in Beaver Creek and one in Magnolia Township.

BEAVER CREEK — Within weeks of authorizing a housing initiative similar to that of its neighbors, Rock County has approved its first two requests for five-year tax abatement for the construction of new homes.

That’s good news for Beaver Creek Mayor Josh Teune, who will see one of those new single-family homes built in his community.

With a population of just under 300, Teune has watched three homes go up for sale in Beaver Creek in the last year and a half. All three sold within a few days. Just last week, a friend of his put his house up for sale Friday night, and had three cash offers by Saturday noon.

It’s young families who are moving into town, said Teune, who has called Beaver Creek home for the past six years.

“Ultimately, we were just looking at growth in our community,” he said.

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Teune encouraged the county to consider a tax abatement program similar to what exists in both Nobles and Pipestone counties. The program allows people who build a new home to keep the new construction off their tax bills for five years, while still paying taxes on the lot and pre-existing buildings. Homeowners are still required to pay taxes on school operating bonds as well.

The Rock County Board of Commissioners authorized the program in August, and Beaver Creek was the first community to join in. The Hills-Beaver Creek School District is anticipated to participate as well, though board members have yet to discuss the matter.

With just one house built in Beaver Creek in the last decade, Teune now anticipates possibly three new homes to be under construction by next spring. All of the lots being developed are around the golf course on the city’s east side. The infrastructure — water, sewer and roads — is ready for the expansion.

The golf course was sold in 2018, and the new owner has renovated the clubhouse and hopes to reopen the golf course — as well as a bar and grill — by the summer of 2020.

The city owns about 25 lots around the course, and Teune said they sell for about $18,000 each. It’s a bargain compared to the $75,000 lots in Sioux Falls, he added.

“We have a hard time bringing people across the border because there’s no income tax in South Dakota,” he said. “We thought this would be a good starting point. What’s a better way to bring more people to town and more students to the school district?”

Beaver Creek is 20 minutes from Sioux Falls, right along Interstate 90. The community is already home to a number of commuters, and Teune hopes to see that continue.

As new homes are built, Teune anticipates some existing housing will open up in the community for newcomers.

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The timing for a tax abatement program couldn’t be better for Rock County, which anticipates the opening of Premium Minnesota Pork next spring. The plant will be looking to hire up to 250 workers, and housing them will be a challenge. In addition, they have a new armory slated to open in 2021, and existing businesses that are hiring.

Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said any new home or housing project planned in the county can qualify for the abatement program. On online application is available at co.rock.mn.us .

With an aggressive county board working to grow Rock County and fuel economic development, Oldre said what’s good for one community is good for the entire county.

As budgets increase for local units of government, growing the tax base and population helps alleviate the tax burden on every property owner. Meanwhile, bringing in new families helps businesses and the school districts, he said.

Aside from Beaver Creek, Oldre said other communities in the county are reviewing the program and considering options.

“Luverne and Hills already have different types of programs in place,” Oldre said. “They’re trying to figure out if it’s more beneficial to do abatement than their own program.”

The second home authorized through the Rock County Home Initiative last week will be built in Magnolia Township.

Seeing that Nobles County has had approximately 40 new homes built through its housing initiative, Oldre is hopeful that Rock County can realistically see 20 new homes built, whether they are single-family, twin homes or apartment complexes.

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Though the Rock County Home Initiative was developed to sunset in five years, Oldre said if there is continued momentum, he expects the program to be renewed.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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