The city of Superior has about a dozen vacant parcels that could be used to build new homes in existing neighborhoods.
People have shown interest in most lots, but the city has not been successful in selling the buildable parcels over the last four years.
To incentivize single-family new construction, the Plan Commission approved a program developed by the Planning Department to grant the properties, free of charge, to successful applicants to spur growth on infill parcels.
“The city has through acquisition of deeded properties, through tear downs, over the last 20 years, has accumulated various lots throughout the community,” said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director. “I’m talking lots 50-foot or larger. We have, of course, marketed them, but I have not had much success in that.”
Serck said the goal is to offer sites for affordable, single-family homes.
Detailed house construction plans and proof of financing at the time of application and homes would have to be owner-occupied at the completion of the project, either by the applicant or sold for owner-occupancy.
“I like the idea of the homes being owner-occupied,” Councilor Brent Fennessey said.
Projects must get underway within 12 months and be completed 24 months after the property is transferred. A development agreement would be in place for each parcel to ensure project completion. A refundable deposit is required of successful applicants and will be returned once the occupancy requirement is met.
“We want to get it off the city’s books and onto the tax rolls,” Mayor Jim Paine said.
A couple lots would be suitable for duplexes, Serck said.
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Fennessey questioned whether the city should consider twin homes in those locations and revisit creating a zero-lot line ordinance so both of the homes would be owner-occupied.
“I would rather see a twin home on some of these lots instead of a duplex solely for the purpose of renting it out,” Fennessey said.
Twin homes could be allowed on some larger lots, Serck said, but he said it could limit interest. He said subdivision of larger lots would be another option.
“I don’t think we can do a zero-lot line on an interior lot when the rest of the block isn’t zero-lot lines,” said Allison Johnson, planning technician. “There’s maybe one that would be big enough for something you’re describing … I’m just not sure a side-by-side would fit.”
Most are interior lots and they’re only about 50 feet wide, Johnson said.
Fennessey proposed amending the proposal so applicants cannot use the program if an intended use is to build any rental units.
Commissioner Brian Finstad seconded the amended.
“I’m sort of sitting on the fence with two different thoughts in my mind,” Finstad said. “On the one hand, I’m very pro-density and multi-unit is fine and great. We have limited land, and we need to make the most of it. There’s certain neighborhoods that have an oversaturation of rental and neighborhood stability in areas that I see are declining and struggling are ones with high rates of absentee landlords.”
Finstad said neighborhood stability needs to be taken into consideration, especially in the 1800 block of Banks Avenue, where a vacant lot is large enough for multi-family development.
Mayor Jim Paine said he supports disallowing rentals because it addresses two issues the city is facing: The inability to sell vacant land and the difficulty people have in finding homes to buy that they can live in. He said eliminating rental options may slow construction, but it is likely for the best.
“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for the city,” Councilor Tylor Elm said. “I look forward to seeing what it will accomplish.”
The council considers adopting the program when it meets April 7.