Members of the EDA Housing Subcommittee provided the Preston City Council with an update at the June 17 meeting. Councilman Charles Sparks was absent.
EDA Director Cathy Enerson explained they are working with a goal of adding 167 housing units by 2030 with the expectation that the city’s population will grow to 1,450 by that time. Growth drivers cited include the State Veterans Home and Destination Medical Center, which will increase the availability of area jobs and the need for affordable housing.
Currently, 800 people who work in Preston live elsewhere and 400 people who live in Preston work elsewhere. Commuters may be incentivized to buy in Preston if a range of single family housing is available. Forty-five percent of DMC employees are expected to live outside of Rochester. Enerson acknowledged that Preston is not in the first ring of cities that will benefit from DMC, but it can take advantage of the spin-off effect.
Erik Topness pointed to 10 areas in Preston or adjacent to the city limits where there is potential for development for additional housing units. Current landowners have expressed interest either in developing their property or selling their property to a developer. Possible housing areas include property near the trailhead, a downtown location for an apartment complex, sites by the golf course and near the fairgrounds, and near the edge of town and the state trail. The goal would be to provide the opportunity for several types/sizes of homes to attract people to live in Preston. Another goal would be to promote different building opportunities.
Jon DeVries suggested Phase I is basically done. Phase II will include a Housing Summit scheduled for September for potential builders to showcase the committee’s work. Phase III will be a process to narrow down the possible sites to three or four, taking into account existing utilities and looking at other infrastructure needs. DeVries said the city has two assets: a well-functioning public utility and the EDA board. The EDA, the utility, and the city will have to work together to underwrite a capital investment plan.
This is a multi-year program. DeVries maintained a population increase and more housing units will reduce the per capita tax burden. The tax burden will be shared between homeowners and businesses. Preston is unusual, as it has more people employed in the city than its working age population.
Other business in brief
•Significant Industrial User (pretreatment) Agreements with Foremost Farms and POET were renewed. The agreements were first approved in 2017. They limit what can be discharged to the wastewater plant (especially Mercury). The agreements were not changed, just renewed. Preston Public Utility had already approved the agreements.
•Changes to the police chief job description as proposed by City Administrator Joe Hoffman were approved. He said the job description changes reflect more accurately the position and how we have been operating. Police Chief Matt Schultz’s resignation is effective August 5. Advertisement to replace Schultz has been made internally.
•The annual contribution of $3,000 was approved for the Preston Historical Society. Also, the Preston Historical Society will dedicate the Railroad History Sign on Sunday, June 30 at 3 p.m. at the Trailhead.
•Resolutions were approved to amend the definition of a dwelling in ordinance and to amend the pool ordinance. The amendment to the definition of a dwelling includes the additional language: “An attached garage shall occupy no more than 45 % of the dwelling structure footprint.” This is to preserve conventional residential neighborhoods.
The amendment to the swimming pool ordinance is intended to increase safety in the community by limiting access to private swimming pools. Fences no less than five feet high will be required to limit access to any pool with a depth greater than 18 inches. A building permit is required for any pool with a depth greater than 18 inches.
•John Luze (213 St. Paul St. NW) had requested permission to add a driveway off North St. to his property. Because of the steep incline from the street the driveway will require significant site work. The driveway will have to be installed to city specifications.
Hoffman noted that there are several homes in Preston that do not have driveways. The city has to approve requests for access to a public street. Councilman Robert Maust was concerned about gravel washing onto the city street due to a steep driveway. He suggested they require the driveway to be paved. Hoffman said there are quite a few of steep gravel driveways in the city. The council approved the Luze request. Maust voted no.
Hoffman then suggested that now (after approval of this request) is the time to consider language in an ordinance for future requests for driveways with a high degree of slope and the possible requirement for them to have a hard surface in steep areas.