Janesville48.5°

Developers' input sought on possible policy changes

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
March 1, 2011
— The Janesville City Council on Monday asked staff to contact representatives of the building community about suggested changes in city policies that would stop the city from acting as a bank for developers.

The city stands to lose almost $3 million because it installed infrastructure for lots with agreements the developers pay back the cost in five years. That infrastructure includes curb and gutter and water and sewer.


The arrangement has worked well in the past, Assistant City Manager Jay Winzenz said. But when the economy tanked, developers started defaulting on their tax and assessment payments.


The suggested policies would shift the risk of the developments, Winzenz said.


"What we're saying now is we don't want to be in that financing business anymore," he said. The policy changes would require developers to get their own financing, he added.


Most cities do not have policies such as Janesville's, Winzenz has said.


The city started seeing losses last year, when the developer of one subdivision defaulted without paying $127,000 in costs. The city bought nine of the 10 lots at auction and hopes to sell them to recoup its investment.


"Unfortunately, the scenario might be playing out in a much higher magnitude over the next several years," Winzenz said.


The council discussed suggested changes to the policies Monday, but President Kathy Voskuil said she was concerned the tone at times was anti-development rather than pro-development.


"I want to make sure that comes across very clear in the policy statement," she said. "I know we're not a financial institution. I do believe we want to position ourselves from a development standpoint."


Councilman George Brunner suggested staff meet with builders and developers.


"I don't know if there is a third option out there that would still protect the taxpayer," he said. "We're in a different climate, a different situation now."


A public hearing scheduled in March will be delayed until April 11.


Builder and developer Tim Weber was at the meeting and thanked the council for the chance to discuss the policies.


OTHER BUSINESS

The Janesville City Council on Monday:


-- Approved increases in fees at the landfill for both large and small haulers. Janesville residents can still dump 60 gallons of trash for free.


-- Approved an ordinance requiring pawnshops and stores that sell secondhand jewelry, games, guns and furs, for instance, to electronically report items they buy to police. Shop owners also will be required to take pictures of the items. Storeowners will report the items directly to a site that houses other items from around the state. The system is expected to improve police efficiency in tracking stolen goods. Councilman George Brunner requested the ordinance.


The council exempted consignment shops from the electronic reporting requirement.


The owner of one shop, Carousel Consignments, said in an article in Saturday's Gazette that she takes in hundreds of items a day. Police said they rarely find stolen goods in consignment shops.


The council generated the amendment that exempts consignment shops this weekend after members received phone calls and e-mails, Councilman Tom McDonald said. He said it is important that council packets come out Wednesdays, giving the media and the public time to react to proposals.


"Public comment does make a difference," McDonald said. "Things do change."



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