Appleton pushes assessment votes back

Appleton pushes assessment votes back

Developers say the upfront cost of paying for streets and gutters is making it difficult to compete with neighboring communities. But some council members are concerned about what potential changes would mean to the city's budget.

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) - The first of three votes on special assessments in Appleton has been sent back to committee after a council meeting tonight.

The amendment addresses how developers are charged for infrastructure in new subdivisions.

Developers say the upfront cost of paying for streets and gutters is making it difficult to compete with neighboring communities. But some council members are concerned about what potential changes would mean to the city's budget.

Until 2004, homeowners in brand new subdivisions were charged special assessments for new streets, curbs, and gutters. That changed when developers realized they could expedite the process by paying for those upfront. But ten years later, they say that's no longer an option.

"Unfortunately, with the recession and economic downturn, lending standards have become extremely tight,"  Christine Shaefer, the Executive Vice President of the Valley Home Builders Association says, "and it's very, very difficult, virtually impossible in some cases for developers to get the financing they need to upfront the street costs."

Now, they want the city to revert back to special assessments for new subdivisions. The change would lessen the financial burden on developers, while providing clarity for home buyers.

"I think people who buy brand new homes understand that they're going to have to be responsible for this," Peter Stueck, District 9 Alderman, says. "It's not like a repair or reconstruction to an existing street this is a new street being put in front of their property."

The amendment was set for action Wednesday night, but Vice Chairman of Finance, District three Curt Konetzke referred it back to committee.

"There's some unanswered questions as to how this could potentially affect the city budget and our borrowing power to be able to do these road projects," Konetzke says.

He says the assessments could take a number of years, leaving the city on the hook for upfront funding. But developers say the change could be the difference between 200 new homes, and no new homes in Appleton next year.

"Without the ability for the city to upfront the cost for the streets," Shaefer says, "developers are really going to be unable to open any new subdivisions in the city and that's not what we want to see happen.

The finance committee will review the amendment next week before potentially sending it back to the common council on July 16th.

This is just the first of three controversial special assessment issues the city will tackle this summer.

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