In the quest for growth and housing, how far is the Rapid City government willing to go?
That question, and the numerous queries to follow, was the subject of debate at the city’s Public Works committee meeting Tuesday afternoon. The committee heard a local developer’s request for the city to construct a $1.5 million, 1,400-foot road to its proposed 300-lot subdivision just east of Catron Boulevard and Mount Rushmore Road. The city’s Capital Improvement Plan, a five-year infrastructure project schedule, would be the source of those funds.
The proposed development, South Terrace subdivision, would be situated on three separate lots composed of 175 acres and owned by Catron Boulevard Investors, a limited liability company held by local developer and real estate agent Pat Hall. Hani Shafai, another local developer, also has a stake in the project and has owned the property since 2002 or 2003, he confirmed in a Journal interview Tuesday.
The requested road construction comes as the development looks to get off the ground and provide two separate means of entrance/exit to the single family residential development. Per city code, any development with more than 40 units must have multiple means of entrance/exit.
The proposed road is located outside Hall’s property boundary. The other means of entrance/exit in the subdivision’s designs would allow only right-hand turns into and out of the subdivision, Public Works Director Dale Tech said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“That does not adequately serve the needs of the citizens in that area,” Tech said. “You’d have to come at the subdivision in one direction and leave in one direction.” Tech said it’s likely some cars would ignore the turning restrictions and cut across both lanes, creating safety issues.
But the biggest issue Tech and committee members Ritchie Nordstrom and Jason Salamun seemed to have with the request was taking $1.5 million from the city’s CIP fund.
“You talk to any public works department in the upper Midwest and everyone has the same problem: We do not have enough funding available for our existing infrastructure,” Tech said. Taking $1.5 million from the fund would mean delaying other projects that had been scheduled for up to a dozen years, Tech added.
“I beat this drum to death: We need more funding to fix our existing streets. If we go using it for other purposes, we’re not meeting that mission.”
Committee members Lisa Modrick and John Roberts were more open to the idea of using CIP dollars, citing the potential property and sales tax revenue generated from 300 homes and the families that would fill them. A 50/50 split of the road construction costs was mentioned, though Kyle Treloar of KTM Design Solutions, speaking on behalf of Shafai and Hall — neither men were present at Tuesday’s meeting — wasn’t given a chance to express whether that was an option of interest.
Ultimately, the item was forwarded to the city council without recommendation for consideration at their March 19 meeting. Discussion about the subdivision and the issue of using the CIP to assist developers with infrastructure improvements appear as though they’ll be the main talking points.
“I think you could expect other developers to come in and then see that as a potential pot of money to come in and request from,” Landeen said of the precedent it would set if the council decides to use the CIP for such a project.
The possibility of using a tax increment financing district to fund the infrastructure improvements was periodically broached Tuesday but the idea didn’t seem to find much traction. Tax increment financing districts, or TIFs, are intended to encourage economic development or public improvement projects in blighted areas by delaying the payment of property taxes in the district, theoretically to free up funds early on so the development can take place.
When asked if the request was more a “shot in the dark” attempt before applying for a TIF district, Treloar said they chose this avenue at the direction of Tech after several private meetings concerning the issue.
After the meeting, Tech said that wasn’t the case.
“They don’t want to do a TIF necessarily so they asked what other types of funding sources were available,” Tech said, explaining that he then told them that though he didn’t support using the CIP for such a project, it was their right to request it from the council. When asked why Shafai and Hall didn’t favor a TIF, Tech seemed wary to answer before offering a blunt proclamation.
“Hani Shafai just doesn’t want another TIF with his name on it.”
In a phone interview after the meeting, Shafai said he would be at the council’s meeting on Monday to correct what he said were misrepresentations of the project by city staff.
In other action, the committee recommended:
• Acknowledging the city’s recently completed downtown parking study and the recommendations within. In the same motion, the committee recommended establishing a parking advisory committee and directing staff to develop a parking implementation strategy to introduce changes to the downtown area’s current parking system. This Thursday the city will host an open house and presentation of the results of the study at 5:30 p.m. at the Dahl Arts Center’s Vucurevich Event Center. Walker Consultants, Inc., the firm hired by the city to conduct the study, will give a presentation followed by an open question and answer period. An identical presentation will also be made at 6:30 p.m. A digital copy of the parking study is available online at bit.ly/downtownrc.
• Authorizing city staff to advertise for bids for two pavement rehabilitation projects at East Van Buren Street and Berry Boulevard. Both projects will include asphalt overlay and patching, street, curb and gutter spot repair and the construction of Americans with Disabilities compliant intersections. The work on Van Buren project will be contained between North Maple and Haines avenues and cost approximately $250,000 while the Berry Boulevard improvements, between West Chicago Street and its convergence with North Berry Pine Road, will cost about $200,000. Both projects should be completed this summer.
• Paying R.C.S. Construction an additional $71,401 for the project to construct street, utility, drainage and park improvements along East Idaho Street, East Nevada Street, and Ivy Avenue near Robbinsdale Park. With the additional monies, the project is now estimated to cost $4,740,491.