McCleary council stalls development incentives

How far is the City of McCleary willing to go to bring in developers? The city council has grappled with that question since 2016 when Mayor Brent Schiller was appointed to office.

Initially, the council had asked that some resolution or policy come forward allowing for utility hook-up discounts for larger developers building multiple homes. After much discussion over a lengthy period of time and research, the city learned it could not legally give a discount to only certain developers.

With those aims dashed, the council more recently had been looking into allowing developers to have deferred payment of utility hook-ups, as some other cities are doing. That would mean that a developer would not have to pay the costs for a utility hook-up (which varies into the thousands depending on what kind of hook-up the city has to install) until the house is sold.

But Councilwoman Brenda Orffer wondered if deferred payment would leave the city at risk.

“This doesn’t align with what the vision was, essentially, and I don’t know that this is the best public policy to adopt because it opens the city up to risk, whereas right now, we don’t have any (risk),” Orffer said. “In thinking from a city perspective… I’m not inclined to adopt this in any fashion.”

Councilwoman Joy Iversen suggested allowing for deferred payments but capping how many deferred payments any one developer could have at a time.

“If we don’t look at this seriously, it would be just an easily for a builder to go someplace that does have it. It sounds like a lot of communities do have it available,” Iversen said. “I like the idea of capping it so at least we would know what our liability is.”

City attorney Dan Glenn said developers could find ways around the cap, possibly by filing under different company names. Glenn sugested having the cap affect how many the deferred payments the city can authorize at one time, rather than how many a developer can have.

The council has sent the potential incentives back to Glenn for further revision.