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Commissioner speaks about housing ordinance at Thursday forum

Posted: Monday, Mar 20th, 2017

Doug Kludt

HURON – A plan to ease the city’s housing shortage by rezoning 10 acres in a new development in southeast Huron to allow for an apartment complex could be heading to a public vote, but should the ordinance be overturned it would jeopardize the Dakota Provisions expansion project, a city commissioner said.

A developer wants to build a 69-unit market rate apartment building in the South Town Addition south of Coborn’s this year, but opponents of the complex have been circulating petitions to put the issue on the ballot.

“I think it would be a shame if it did go to a vote and we lost because I think it would be a real blow to the community,” Doug Kludt said Thursday.

“It isn’t often you get an outside developer willing to invest approximately $8 million into a town of our size,” he said at the District 22 Democratic Forum. “And it addresses a huge need in this community. We’ve had a housing shortage for years.”

Kludt starts his second term on the board in May after being re-elected without opposition. His presentation at the Democratic Forum also covered a proposed new city public works building, ongoing infrastructure work and the odd-even watering ordinance commissioners are proposing.

If the rezoning ordinance goes to a public vote, it could potentially short circuit the apartment project regardless of the outcome because it will take time to schedule the special election, he said. The developer would like to get in the ground about April 1.

Dakota Provisions plans to add 250 new jobs to its workforce by the end of the year as it expands into a building in the West Industrial Park.

As of March 5, there were more than 400 employment openings in Beadle County, not including the jobs that Dakota Provisions will need to fill, Kludt said.

One of the impediments to finding workers is not to have enough housing, he said.

“If that gets defeated,” he said of the potential ballot issue, “that will be a key element of the plan to provide the necessary housing for that. It would be a big blow.”

Construction of the apartment building in the South Town Addition would also be an impetus to further develop an area that for years had remained a pasture because a previous developer’s plans never materialized.

The county took possession after taxes went unpaid and more recently deeded the land to the city. The city cleared the title and began selling lots a couple years ago.

Opponents have said they object to an apartment complex near single-family dwellings, and have suggested other locations.

“He could build apartment houses in a lot of different places,” Kludt said. “The point is, this developer wants to build it there.”

He said he thinks the objections are exaggerated and overblown. The apartment building, for example, would be a considerable distance from single-family housing, he said.

Opponents have also called the complex a monstrosity and a skyscraper, Kludt said.

“It’s a three-story apartment building,” he said. “It’s going to be a modern, newly constructed building. It will not be a monstrosity.”

Meanwhile, he said the odd-even system of watering lawns, trees and landscaping was an idea City Engineer Mike Wever brought to commissioners. The board has been tweaking the ordinance after getting citizen input, and second and final reading is set for Monday.

“It is essentially designed to provide us with data to show that the peak daily water usage is not so high that we don’t have excess,” Kludt said.

“It’s designed to keep that number down to a certain level so that we can demonstrate to prospective businesses that we still have water capable to meet their needs,” he said.

A longtime need for a new public works building will likely be realized this year with the construction of a consolidated facility for the water, street and traffic departments in the West Industrial Park, he said.

Commissioners plan to tap into reserve funds it has set aside for an airport improvement project that won’t be getting off the ground because of the loss of commercial air service.

The city street department is housed in a small, deteriorating and inefficient building, he said. A large shop and storage area to protect high-ticket equipment and machinery has been a crucial need for some time.

Kludt said the ongoing sewer main lining, water main replacement, handicap ramp installation and manhole lining projects will soon be completed, meaning significant funds can be used to fund other priorities.

Huron is the envy of a lot of communities because it has committed funds each year to updating aging infrastructure, he said.

In his remarks, Kludt said he also wanted to emphasize how impressed he is with city employees.

Commissioners meet weekly to make decisions and establish the budget.

“But the day-to-day nitty gritty of providing city services is provided by those employees and they just do a wonderful job,” he said.

An experienced staff, many with years of institutional knowledge, bring a real passion to the job, he said.

“They really care about the community,” Kludt said. “And they’re really committed to doing the best job they can.”

For the complete article see the 03-17-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-17-2017 paper.

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