COLUMBUS JUNCTION — A repayable loan of up to $150,000 will be provided by the city of Columbus Junction to a newly formed corporation of local volunteers, who will use the funds to help market vacant lots in the New Heritage Village subdivision, the city council agreed Wednesday.
Former Columbus Junction Mayor Dan Wilson presented the proposal, explaining he and local residents Al Bohling and Kim Carson, who also attended the meeting, had established Columbus Properties LLC to encourage housing and growth in the community.
“We organized a few months ago into an LLC for the sole purpose of putting forth a plan to help our community grow in terms of housing,” Wilson said.
Wilson told the council that the corporate officer had talked with subdivision developer Bob Simmering about purchasing an estimated 30 unsold lots in the subdivision, which could then be marketed to families and other potential buyers.
He said the corporation could also tie incentives and marketing ideas into the purchase to increase the likelihood of sales. Wilson estimated the lots could be purchased for around $116,000 with the incentive and marketing plans bringing the total cost to around $150,000.
However, the key for the corporation would be obtaining the needed funding and Wilson said the city’s Roundy Fund offered the best opportunity. That fund was established about seven years ago following the deaths of long-time city residents Beryl and Sime Roundy. The fund receives an annual payment from the couple’s estate that is to be used for civic projects and benefits.
Mayor Mark Huston said using the Roundy Fund to support a housing development plan would have been strongly supported by Beryl Roundy.
“A lot of Beryl’s success was in real estate and using the funds he has left in perpetuity to us can be tied back to something he would have been very interested in,” Huston said.
Wilson agreed and assured the council that Columbus Properties LLC would not be seeking any profits from the sale of the lots.
“We are volunteers and I want to emphasize there is no personal financial stake in this for the three of us whatsoever. That’s why we are here asking for financial support from the city,” he said.
Wilson pointed out the city would receive a mortgage on the property acquired with the Roundy Funds, meaning it would always hold the land’s value. The corporation would pay off the loan as the individual lots were sold for development.
Wilson also promised the corporation would require buyers to begin building on their lots within a year of their purchase.
“I don’t think there is a risk (to the city) other than the timing (of the sale of lots),” he told the council.
“I think it’s a great idea,” council member Frank Best said after hearing the proposal.
The rest of the council agreed and approved Best’s motion to award the funding as a draw-down when needed by the corporation. Huston said after the meeting that he expected the sale of the remaining subdivision lots to be completed within a few weeks.
In other action, Alicia Bright and Amy Buol of the Columbus Day Committee met with the council to request a closing of Main Street on Oct. 13, when the city celebrates Columbus Day.
City officials suggested the two talk with local emergency personnel and return to the council later for a final decision.
The council also approved a REAP application to help fund development work at Chautauqua Park.