By Jackie Nelson
HESSTON—Today the City of Hesston moves toward developing a city owned property it calls Ridge Pointe.
But it’s been an eight year journey with plenty of bumps and tax payer investment along the way to get there.
In late spring of 2013, the idea of the City of Hesston purchasing Country Village Mobile Home Park was first proposed. With a price tag of $150,000 to purchase half of the park floated by Mayor Dave Kauffman, the initial rollout of a potential purchase was met with community resistance and hesitancy on the part of city council members.
By 2015, talks were underway for the potential purchase of Country Village Mobile Home Park property, between City Administrator Gary Emry and owner Bob Tonge.
In July of 2016, the city purchased the park for $440,000. That same year, the property was appraised by Harvey County officials at $277,760.
In addition to the purchase price, the council at the time agreed to pay Tonge, owner of Prestwick Investments of Texas, a $30,000 fee for one year of property management.
In August of 2016, a stipend was established to assist residents of the trailer park’s 41 occupied units in the 139-lot park with moving costs.
The stipend was broken into three parts: $7,000 for residents who owned their homes, lived in their homes and if they moved and left a clean lot within 12 months of the purchase date; a $5,000 subsidy was given to residents who owned their homes, lived in their homes and left a clean lot within 13 to 24 months of the purchase date; and a final set subsidy of $2,000 was approved for residents who owned but did not live in structures on their rented lots. Additionally, the city spent just over $2,200 in demolition costs for abandoned trailers.
The city took over the management of the property in 2017.
Over the course of owning the property, the city collected just over $130,000 in lot rents from residents to offset some of the expenses. By April of 2019, and the park empty, the city had paid $215,000 in moving subsidies to the former Country Village residents.
Additionally, the city has lost $1,081 in property taxes annually, about $5,400.
In April of 2019, the Hesston City Council approved a community strategic plan, which included $75,000 allocated to the development of the property.
The development project slowed for a year. However, activity began again when the northernmost tip of the Ridge Pointe was purchased by the City of Hesston for $90,000 in April 2020.
The appraised value of the property, according to Harvey County, is currently $17,060.
In the summer of 2020, the property was renamed Ridge Pointe.
In August of 2020, Jason Gish, representing MKEC, presented a proposal for a master plan of Ridge Pointe. The area was redesigned from a 139-lot mobile home park to a 29-lot mixed use development with residential, public space and retail zoning.
The project proposal, with a price tag of $35,500, included master planning, boundary survey, zoning support and a preliminary and final platting of the property
In October of 2020, the council approved a Master Plan for the site, to include multi-family residential housing, patio homes and single-family housing on the south end of the property. A community park and gathering space separated housing from the northernmost point of the property, which was designated for commercial and retail development.
Also in October of 2020, Dean Leatherman with Preferred Builders addressed the council as the council-approved developer for the housing portion of the project. Leatherman said the duplexes would be quality homes, selling for about $200,000 per side. No mention of the price of single-family homes or possible rent targets for multi-family housing was made.
A potential additional expense, either for the city or the developer, was new utility installation, as Gish said it was not feasible to use existing utilities for the development’s housing stock.
As of April 2021, Emry said the city has paid “approximately $15,000” of MKEC’s $35,500.
Emry said currently MKEC “is now working up estimated costs for infrastructure such as streets, curb, guttering, sidewalks, and utility needs.”
After the city receives estimates for infrastructure costs, staff will make further recommendations to the council regarding finalizing the development agreement with Preferred Builders.
At the April council meeting, council gave staff approval to move forward to request a quote for community engagement and design services by GLMV, an architectural firm in Wichita.
When the city worked through the community strategic plan, there was a community request for a gathering space.
“The quote from GLMV is being requested for that purpose, for them to re-engage the community to determine if there is a remaining desire for such a facility, and if so, what amenities the facility would offer and a quote for the design of such a facility,” Emry said.
Looking into 2021, Emry said he does not anticipate any groundbreakings for residential areas, “because staff intends to seek grant contributions to the housing portion of the project.”
Emry said the grant application begins in the fall.
“We would wait until we have notification of any grant award before moving forward with construction,” he said.
Other pieces that will influence the work include the American Rescue Plan Act “that will play an integral role.”
“Because of the timing of potential distribution of those dollars, it benefits the council to wait until we are fully aware of the amount of distribution, and alignment of prioritized projects to authorized expenditures,” he said.
Funding for the Ridge Pointe Development has come from the city’s Capital Improvement Fund, according to Emry.
Emry added more community conversations will take place in the coming months regarding the community and activity center.