Waukon City Attorney clarifies letter received by property owners in regard to proposed urban revitalization plan

by Bob Beach

The chamber of the Waukon City Council in Waukon City Hall was filled to near capacity Monday night, May 18 for a public hearing regarding a proposed urban revitalization plan as a result of notices that were mailed to all property owners within the city limits. City Attorney Jim Garrett said that perhaps a letter of explanation should have accompanied that notice as he had heard numerous questions about the notice.
He explained that the proposed urban revitalization plan is nothing more than a property tax rebate offered as an incentive to build new homes - owners of newly constructed residential buildings (single-family and multi-family buildings) would receive property tax rebates over three years (100 percent the first year, 75 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year). The proposed revitalization area includes the entire City of Waukon.
Mayor Loren Beneke explained that a similar program had been in place until a couple of years ago when the Council voted to discontinue the program because it was underutilized and not working as intended. Responding to questions about help for lower income home owners whose homes could use some repairs, Beneke said that Community Development Block Grant funds had been available for that purpose but the grant award had not been fully used due to an apparent lack of interest from home owners.
Garrett told the Council that State law requires a 30-day waiting period during which the public could request another public hearing plan. The Council voted to tentatively approve the urban revitalization plan.
The Council also held a public hearing regarding an amendment to the City’s budget for fiscal year 2015. With no comments heard, that hearing was closed and the Council voted unanimously to approve the amended budget as presented.
During regular business, Steve Pladsen, owner of the RW Pladsen Chevrolet dealership in Waukon, presented the Council with packets of information comparing the technical specifications of the Ford Utility Police Interceptor, which Waukon Police Chief Phil Young had recommended purchasing, and the Chevrolet Tahoe, which Young described at a previous Council meeting as a “gas guzzler.”
In rebuttal to Young’s description of the Tahoe, Pladsen pointed out that both the Ford Interceptor and the Chevrolet Tahoe get 16 miles per gallon in the city and the Ford Interceptor gets 21 miles per gallon on the highway compared to 22 highway miles per gallon by the Tahoe. Pladsen also pointed out that the Tahoe is E-85 compatible while the Ford Interceptor is not. The Mayor thanked Pladsen for the information but said that the Council is not yet ready to make a decision on the purchase of vehicles for the Police Department.
In other business, City Attorney Jim Garrett told the Council that a plat dividing the former Northern Engraving building in southeast Waukon, now owned by real estate developer Dick Sullivan, was recorded in error. In order to prevent portions of the building from being sold as individual lots, the Council authorized Garrett to have the recorded plat voided if deemed necessary to correct the problem.
The Council approved the closure of a portion of First Avenue NW from May 22 until May 26 for the display of the mobile USS Wainwright Mobile Museum during the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the parade route for the Dairy Days Parade to be held in Waukon June 1. The Council also signed a letter committing to pay the City’s portion of the cost to sealcoat the runway at the airport, with 70 percent of the $12,800 cost paid with funds from a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation.