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Developer seeks financial help

Developers of the Joyful Life Townhomes project are requesting financial assistance from the city of Clintonville. Pictured is half of the first two townhomes being built as part of the project. Bert Lehman Photo

Clintonville Common Council takes no action

By Bert Lehman

Developers of four parcels of land on Kratzke Road in Clintonville with zero lot line townhomes has requested financial assistance from the city.

They want to recoup some of the funds they spent on bringing water and sewer to the development project.

Project timeline

As part of information packet for the Aug. 8 Clintonville Common Council meeting, City Administrator Caz Muske a timeline of events for the Joyful Life Townhome project.

According to the document, the council approved the site plans for the project at its March 8, 2022 meeting. That was followed by the developers completing the engineering for the project for installing water and sewer.

DNR approval for the water main extension came on June 27, 2022.

On Nov. 3, 2022, the council approved $17,500 for sanitary and $11,000 for water for future builds to the north of Country Club Drive.

According to the document, when the development started, there was discussion about running the utilities behind the homes with a lateral and then branching off to each home.

“This would have been fine, although the current owners did not want to take ownership for the life of the line due to selling the homes to other homeowners,” the document said.
“The only other way was an easement to the city/utilities for the lines. The problem this presented was not enough footage behind the homes for an easement and no access to hydrants by fire personnel. Another problem was the future homeowners could not put anything inside the easements which would not allow them to have a back yard. The current idea came up to extend the lines as for the site plan that everyone agreed to.”

The document also noted that the developers knew the costs prior to building the first two townhomes, but continued with the project. It was also stated that the city has invested a lot of time to help this project move forward.

Townhomes’ email

In an email, dated July 26, 2023, from Chris Joy, part of the development group, to Muske, Clintonville Mayor Steve Kettenhoven, and members of the Clintonville City Council, Joy provided a breakdown of the tax benefits the city would receive from the Joyful Life Townhomes development project.

Also in the email, Joy stated that in February he met with Clintonville city leaders to obtain additional assistance from the city for the cost of utilities for the project.

“All we were told was a grant was applied for along with another possible residential project,” Joy said in the email. “Some of you know us from previous meetings and this was the first time in this whole process that the city tried to work with us financially. Well, that grant did not pan out. This has been an incredibly frustrating process for me as a Clintonville resident who has seen virtually no residential expansion except for a few apartment buildings.”

Joy also stated that the project was delayed for more than a year by the former city administrator regarding a zoning amendment. In addition, he said he was told by the city that the water and sewer for the project could be run behind the homes for $40,000.

“With that we then decided to move forward and buy the lots,” Joy said. “After that we were then told they couldn’t do an easement behind the homes and we had to do a full engineered water and sewer in front of the homes. That cost us $142,000 for the water and sewer and $9,906.40 for engineering. That is quite different from the $40,000 we originally planned on. Connecting electricity came to $7,821.31. Which brings us to a total investment of $159,727.71.”

With the tax breakdown provided by Joy, he said the city would be “basically paid back in nine years and after that the revenue for this development grows by almost $90,000 compared to leaving it vacant.”

He added, “We don’t plan on ditching the project as we have too much invested but unless something is done in return from the city, we will never develop in Clintonville again. And if we would have had the correct total cost, we would have never started this project.”

City council meeting

Joy addressed the council about the development at the Aug. 8 council meeting. He discussed the email he sent to the members of the council, saying it showed the benefits the city would receive because of the housing development.

“I think it shows that the city is going to benefit greatly off it too,” Joy said. “And in time, you’re going to make more money off it than we will.”

Joy claimed that without the development of the lots for housing, the city would receive $300 a year in taxes for those undeveloped lots. He then claimed that with the housing development, the city’s revenue would be $3,000 after the first year, $6,000 after the second year, $9,000 after the third year, and $12,000 after the fourth year. That is assuming two townhomes are sold each of the four years.

“What I propose is to become partners with the city,” Joy said. “Because, who’s going to benefit the most out of this? The city, and we’re putting up the money for it.”

While communicating with other cities, Joy said he was told that if it makes sense financially, those cities would invest in similar projects.

The purchase price of one of the townhomes in the project is around $300,000, Joy said. He said his group is trying to keep the purchase price as low as possible, but the cost of materials has dictated the price. With help from the city, he said the purchase price could be lowed for each townhome by $10,000.

Joy asked the council if the city has any plans for residential development.

“The problem is, the city hasn’t tried to develop for a long time,” Joy said.

Joy acknowledged that the city did change the zero lot line ordinance to allow the Joyful Life Townhomes project to proceed. But added that it was a “seven-month process of headaches” to accomplish that.

He also acknowledged that the city applied for a grant for the project, but claimed that was done only after another larger developer wanted to pursue development in the city.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to me,” Joy said about a grant being applied for only after a larger developer became involved.

Development in Clintonville

During the discussion, Ald. Greg Rose said it would be a good idea for the city to help with this development.

“You look at neighboring cities, Shawano, New London, they have developments happening,” Rose said. “We really don’t, and we never have, at least not significant ones in quite some time.”

Rose said he’d like to know what the city’s protocol is when a housing developer approaches the city about a development.

“I’m diving in on this and I hope you guys can be onboard looking for future ways we can develop Clintonville,” Rose said.

Ald. Brandon Braden asked about how the tax projections that Joy provided were calculated.

Muske said the city hadn’t verified those calculations yet.

Ald. Stephanie Bonikowske told the council that she knows Joy personally, and said that he does a lot of good things for the city.

“He is trying to help our city out even more with this building development that we need,” Bonikowske said.

She encouraged the city to help the development.

The council took no action regarding providing financial help to the development project.

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