Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Extending sewer remains viable option for city

August 16, 2007

Earlier this month, the De Soto City Council had a free-ranging discussion on economic development, or rather the lack of it, in De Soto. It was agreed to schedule a workshop on the topic for later this month. Although there has been some new commercial development in De Soto in the past few years, primarily on the Lexington Avenue corridor, the city's tax base remains sadly dependent on residential rooftops and its sales tax capture rate less is than 50 percent what should be expected of its population.

Council members flagged a number of factors in De Soto's distressing lack of commercial growth, among them the tendency of those in a bedroom community to shop elsewhere, the lack of land for development and the cost of what land is available.

The council instructed city staff to explore what other cities successfully have done to spur commercial growth. Moreover, Mayor Dave Anderson encouraged council members to think creatively and to come to the workshop with what-if proposals. It would then be the council's job to trim those ideas into something workable.

We would like to see more discussion of a proposal that seemed to have the council's endorsement earlier this year, only to disappear when other priorities won out as the five-year capital improvement plan was completed earlier this summer. That proposal would have extended a sewer line from the Huhtamaki Americas plant south to 95th Street and then west to Lexington Avenue with the expectation it would spur development in on the busy interchange of that street and Kansas Highway 10. The cost for the improvement is estimated at $500,000.

As Anderson pointed out in that earlier discussion, the city has $2 million in the electrical utility fund that it could borrow for the improvement. And as we argued earlier, the project would certainly fall within the specified use of the fund to help the city's utility customers. We even suggested running a line to the intersection of 95th Street and Kill Creek Road at the same time.

With the housing slump, contractors are eager for work and the the project would never be more affordable.

During the discussion earlier this month, council members were leery of extending sewer lines only to see property owners respond with unrealistic land prices. In an early leap into the creative thinking realm wondered if the city couldn't improve its own land it and then market to commercial ventures.

We wouldn't discourage the exploration of any idea. But if land prices are a concern, it would seem competition -- which the extended sewer would prompt -- might provide the needed adjustment.

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