City council reaches Habitat compromise
DeSoto City Council members bent but would not break Thursday night, giving Kaw Valley Habitat for Humanity about one third of what it was asking for from the city.
Habitat officials plan to builda home soon in DeSoto and two weeks ago asked the council for a donation of more than $6,000 in the form of permit fee, excise tax and property lien waivers.
The Johnson County Bar Association purchased and donated to Habitat an empty lot at 8280 Cherokee St. in DeSoto.
The city previously condemned and demolished a home on the lot and placed a $4,470 demolition lien against the property. Habitat officials asked the city to waive the lien along with excise tax and building permit fees associated with the construction of a new home.
Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organization that builds homes with volunteer labor and sells them to low-income families at cost and with no interest. The recipient of the DeSoto home has not yet been selected.
City officials balked at the organization's request during their last meeting and asked for more time to determine how much money would be involved.
City administrator Gerald Cooper told council members Thursday night the excise tax would be close to $900 and permit fees would be about $1,300, bringing the total to approximately $6,670.
Cooper estimated the home would generate about $150 a year for the city in property taxes. Council members previously believed the homeowner could be eligible for a personal property tax waiver for the next ten years, in accordance with a revitalization program proposed by the city. The revitalization program has since been amended, however, to exclude empty lots,
Larry Ferree of the Johnson County Bar Association assured council members the three-bedroom house would be an asset to the community, using photos of previous Habitat houses to illustrate his point.
"I don't think we have any problem with the look of the house," council member Duke Neeland said. "The problem is the amount of money and passing it on to the taxpayers. It would take 20 to 30 years to recover the cost the city would be putting out."
Council member Linda Zindler said she would have no problem supporting a waiver of the permit fees, but could not justify waiving the remaining costs.
"I feel comfortable doing something on the soft costs, excluding the excise tax. We've not done that for anyone in the past, not even our own school district," she said.
Council member Brad Seaman made a motion to split the cost of the lien with the organization and waive the permit fees.
"I feel like that's still pretty steep for taxpayers to swallow," Neeland said.
The remaining council members apparently felt the same and the motion died for a lack of a second.
Zindler moved that the city waive the permit fees and offer a $1,000 donation to be applied to the lien. The motion was unanimously approved.
Before Ferree left, Neeland offered some additional support.
"Talk to the city's enhancement committee. I'm a member of that and so is (council member) John Taylor," Neeland said. "I'm sure they'd be willing to help out with some of the labor."