Some Things Never Change…

I was amused by a blurb from Anita Boetsma’s article on the Argos Reflector.

I just finished serving on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committees in Culver and Plymouth right now. This is my 4th and 5th times through this process and housing is always an issue. I know Argos has been struggling with housing issues and according to this article, that struggle has been going on for 140 years!

As is also typical today, the commentator in the Reflector was happy to suggest what others do with their money. “Money invested in this way (housing) would pay a good percent to the investor.” Uh, huh. Other people’s money is easy to spend. I’m sure there would have been further commentary if the writer thought the “good percent” was too good…

I’m reminded of some of the grief I received from the then Culver Town Manager, Street Superintendent and Building Commissioner, who all thought I should be spending more on Sand Hill Farm Apartments and The Paddocks when they were under construction. While their comments were disheartening, it was nice the few times, then Town Council President, Ginny Munroe, publicly reminded them that with all the projects being completed due to Stellar, I was the only one with upfront skin in the game, i.e. making investments and with the potential for losses if things didn’t go well.

Currently, another developer is trying to wind their way through a housing development project in Culver. His project is to be partially funded through a READI grant. As Culver found out when initially looking for a housing developer, there aren’t as many out there as you might think. Culver Sand Hill Farm LLC was created to fill that void. While working on Sand Hill Farm Apartments and The Paddocks, we endured a lot of pushback. Culver’s unofficial motto, “Change is Bad, Even When It’s Change for the Better!” was the theme of many public meetings. The current developer is hearing it all again: The project is too big. The units should be built in a different order. The entrance should be somewhere else. There should be a direct connection to Town. There should NOT be a direct connection to Town. The houses are all going to look the same (stated as bad). The houses should all look the same. There are too many houses and not enough apartments. There are too many apartments and not enough houses. At 300 units, it is a small Town of its own and should provide some services accordingly… and on and on… While the injections of public funds gives the public some say, it still has to be understood that the developer is a for-profit entity and has to make the best decisions for a profitable outcome. Otherwise, why is he doing this? (A question that gets asked at Culver Sand Hill Farm LLC often…)

Housing remains a big issue in both Comprehensive Plans. Plymouth’s was adopted last year. Culver’s is still pending rewrites. In both cases, housing remains front and center, though slightly different approaches have been outlined. Housing is still considered part of the American Dream, but even with that shared vision, everyone has their own ideas about how to achieve that dream and what it looks like.

It’s not too late to make the current developer see the folly of these fights and watch him walk away. Culver Sand Hill Farm LLC sold 12 acres planned for future housing, rather than go through that process again. It’s now going to be a mini-storage facility. Culver Investment Corp. let their PUD expire and have their property for sale. Finding someone else to step up to the Culver’s housing challenge may be hard to do.

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