Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Housing market review could help city find niche

May 24, 2007

Even with a nationwide housing slump, the lack of new home starts in De Soto is eye catching. In the first three months of this year, no new home permits were pulled. As of early this month, only one had been.

Potentially that is a concern because the formula to retire the debt for the city's $9 million sewer plant relied heavily on new development.

Mayor Dave Anderson correctly points out that home starts are just part of that formula. Commercial and industrial development could also provide the new taps needed to pay for the new wastewater plant. He points to at least one industrial development project that will happen in the coming years and the council's decision to extend a sewer line to the presumed attractive development site of 91st Street and Lexington Avenue.

It is also true the slow start reflects short-term conditions, both in the national market and locally.

There is only one active subdivision in the city now and it is in an awkward stage of new home development that doesn't present an immediately attractive venue to home shoppers. Both conditions are temporary.

De Soto's location has always worked for and against it. Some were attracted because it was separated and distinct from the cities and suburban communities to the east and some repelled from the 5- to 10-mile added distance De Soto is removed from shopping, entertainment and other amenities of city life.

Higher energy costs add weight to the wrong side of that equation.

A review of De Soto's place in the emerging housing market may be warranted. The new developers at Sunflower are doing just that, having hired a firm to define its niche and discover opportunities in the residential market.

The city's planning isn't that dated. The comprehensive plan was updated three years ago and a west-side land-use plan was adopted just a year ago. But as gas prices race toward $4 a gallon, basic conditions have changed.

Last year, Johnson County Commissioner John Segale led a study group that made a host of recommendations concerning transportation. In regard to new development, it was suggested that new subdivisions be designed with consideration of public transportation links. Forward-looking planning in this area could prove key to a community with acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Kansas Highway 10.

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