City pumps the brakes on subdivision project
Difficulty acquiring land slows the process
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — A proposed city-owned subdivision project will not go forward this year as initially planned.
The idea for the subdivision came out of a 2014 housing study performed by consulting firm MSA Professional Services Inc., which noted — among other issues — that Marshfield suffers from an “inadequate supply of desirable owner-occupied housing in the city under $200,000.” To that end the city pitched the idea of purchasing its own subdivision, paying to acquire and develop it and then selling lots to individuals or home builders.
The plan was for acquisition of land and construction to begin in 2015, but a press release from the city’s Economic Development Board (EDB) said, “Efforts to locate an appropriate site for such a project have been frustrated by the relative scarcity of a tract of land that meets all the requirements to make the project feasible.”
Marshfield’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell said the city tried to acquire land in two different locations, but in both cases negotiations fell through.
The city has been looking for about 12 acres of land on which 25 homes could be developed in the price range of $125,000-200,000. By making the initial investment in acquiring and developing the land, the city said it would be able to keep the cost of lots down, thus making it more affordable to build quality homes on the site. The city and the other investing bodies would then recoup their investment through taxes or bill payments over an estimated period of seven years and also increase its tax base in the process.
The city estimated the total cost to acquire and develop the land at $782,000, with investments in the project coming from the city, Wood County, the EDB, Marshfield Utilities, and Marshfield Wastewater Utilities. Wood County had formally committed $120,000 toward the project, and Marshfield Utilities had committed $100,000.
Angell said he will speak with both Wood County and Marshfield Utilities and tell them that the project will not go forward this year, that funds set aside for it can be spent elsewhere, and that the city and the EDB will rethink their strategy and re-approach the investing bodies at a later time.
The press release said that the EDB still intends to move forward with some type of project to meet the city’s housing needs even if it means changing the city subdivision concept. The release says that EDB Chairman Bill Sennholz believes the city’s difficulty in finding appropriate land for this project underscores the findings of the housing study.
“There isn’t much land available for this kind of project in Marshfield,” Sennholz said.
Angell said he does not agree with sentiments that have been expressed to the effect that the city would be competing with the private sector by undertaking the subdivision project.
“I don’t think it does (competes) at all,” Angell said. “The developers in town that have lots available are not building homes in this price range.”