The floodgates were nearly opened.
In a 2-2-1 vote at its February 12 meeting, the Huxley City Council narrowly avoided passing a motion to revisit past builder agreements that would have set a precedent with potentially monumental consequences. Had the motion passed, builders could have lined up to come back to the council seeking more money for agreements on past developments.
The process began with a request from Kading Development to revisit a builder’s agreement that was approved by the council almost a full year ago on a project which approved reimbursement at 55 percent of its infrastructure costs. A representative for Kading was on hand to make the unusual request:
“The reason we are asking you to revisit this agreement is because of recent actions by the council, including a policy that was adopted for TIF agreements up to 100 percent of the construction costs ($700,000 in Kading’s instance). Along with that, in the last two developments, my understanding is that you approved 100 percent of those constructions costs for TIF reimbursements, so we are here to ask for that as well.”
The request to reconsider the agreement progressed to a formal motion, which was made by Councilwoman Roberts, with a second by Councilman Kuhn.
“To treat people equally and fair and not pick winners and losers, I’m fully in support of this,” said Roberts.
Councilman Greg Mulder pointed out his own concerns with the motion:
“I know we have heard presentations from others in the past that they didn’t get 100 percent either,” said Mulder. “If we go back and change this resolution here, does that open up others coming back to us and asking for a change also? I don’t think we want to go back and re-evaluate every builder agreement we’ve ever done. I’m concerned whether we’re going to have those others that didn’t get 100 percent coming back in front of us again too.”
In a vocal confirmation to Mulder’s concerns, one of the local builders who was in attendance verified Mulder’s presumption.
“That’s correct!” yelled the builder from the audience of approximately 20 people, many of whom were area developers keeping a close eye on the motion and the potential long-term ramifications.
Mayor Henry agreed that it could open the council up to the possibility of builders coming back to the council and asking for more money, but he urged the council to pass the motion anyway.
“I think this is a fair and equitable request that we need to send back to staff to review and bring us back documents for a final vote,” said Mayor Henry.
The vote went to a roll call, needing a 3-2 decision to pass. The vote proceeded as follows: Peterson (no), Roberts (yes), Mulder (no), Kuhn (yes), and came down to a Jensen vote. He abstained, and the motion failed, killing any further discussion on revisiting the Kading agreement or any others that were decided on in the past.
Of the 11 regular agenda items that were discussed Tuesday evening, five of them involved builder agreements.
The council recently began working on a matrix that will aid in their decisions of how much to fund projects like this in the future, and hopes to be able to utilize it on upcoming developments.
In other council news:
• The council will be considering an increase to water and wastewater rates at a future meeting, following the preparation of documents by the city attorney and council review during their work sessions.
• Kum and Go is considering a new location just off the Highway 210 exit from Interstate 35, partially pending council approval of funding for paving 560th street in the city of Huxley. The motion was tabled for further discussion. Construction would likely start late 2019 or early 2020.
• Two large development projects were presented by Roger Wheeler. The first is a 52-acre plot of land just north of the high school that is projected to be the site of more new homes in Huxley. Wheeler said these homes would likely be in the $300-400,000 price range. The second development is an 80-acre plot of land owned by Dickson and Luann Jensen, on the far north end of town off of Highway 69. This development is still under consideration, but Wheeler mentioned the possibility of the site being broken up into acre-plus sized lots for new homes.