Tuesday, October 10, 2017

At the Table or on the Menu

I would like to begin by thanking the city council and staff for their bold and progressive vision of growth and development. Over the past two years, I have been impressed and encouraged by the thoughtful study, deliberation, and action with regard to many of these positive steps forward for our community. Further, I can appreciate and empathize with the stress our council must be under as they make decisions that will be met with mixed reviews. However, I believe the scales of popularity will be tipped in their favor if they proceed with this proposed development. For the record, I am in support of the Echo Development residential subdivision that will be located in the vicinity of Ranchero and Butterfield Roads. Regarding the schematics and plat configuration of this development, I will not pretend to know or understand where roads or entrances should be located. Yet I would recommend we trust the opinions and counsel of the engineers that have been hired to do this work. They are certainly more qualified than anyone else to make these determinations in consultation with the developer who is making this significant investment of capital in our community.

My opinion on residential development in Hudson is well known and documented. It has not changed from my November 29th, 2016 statement. However, at this time I would like to re-affirm this position and offer additional context through my personal experience.

When school districts hire superintendents, one of the statements school boards like to hear during the interview is that the superintendent is planning to move to the community. This makes a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons. So, when I was appointed Superintendent in 2010 my wife and I made the decision to move to Hudson. The trouble was, it was late in May and we didn't have a lot of time. Very quickly we found out this was not going to be an easy task. At that time, there were literally seven houses on the market in Hudson. None of them suited our needs, and building a home wasn't a realistic option at that point in our lives. Some of these homes were 'fixer uppers', which, within my role as Superintendent of Schools, I really don't have time for, while others were simply out of reach (not to mention Ann gets nervous if I pick up a hammer or a saw), so our search continued for a home in Hudson. Then it got cold. And then the weather got weird. Commuting from Marion wasn't going to work anymore, so we reluctantly decided to purchase a home in Cedar Falls. It literally took us one day to find a home, and we were as close to the district line as we could get at that time. 

In the intervening years, we continued to monitor real estate in Hudson but the inventory remained relatively stagnant. You all know the rest of our story. During the summer of 2016 we built a home in the second addition of Upper Ridge Estates and couldn't be happier. We are thrilled with our home, and at all the homes that are being built in our neighborhood. And I will eagerly support an expansion to the North of me when the time comes.

As I opined on November 29, 2016, housing inventory in Hudson is critically important not only to our school district but to our business community. Families who want to move to Hudson and send their children to our schools are often dismayed to learn they can't. New homes and new families to our community will create tertiary benefits that are difficult to quantify, yet scholarly research indicates job creation, and an increased tax base that will allow our community to improve amenities that will result in an overall improved quality of life for our citizens. With our geographic location to a major population center and a regent university, I have often wondered why Hudson hasn't reaped the benefits that other similarly situated locations in Iowa have. Hudson to Cedar Falls should be likened to Tiffin or North Liberty to Iowa City. Or Gilbert to Ames.

I'll remind you again that schools are located where there are children to educate. As we saw play out over the last couple of years, a decision to close a school in a town not too far away from Hudson tore a school district apart and pitted neighbors and longtime friends against one another. No one wants to see a school close, but the fact of the matter in this case quite simply was that there weren't enough children left to justify that attendance center. Stories like that are all too common in our state as we have seen school after school shutter its doors.

Granted, Hudson is not faced with that situation; we have geography and top-notch schools to thank for that (which is one of the reasons we must embrace this development), but we do have other challenges. Primary among them has been a pattern of minimal state supplemental aid over the last several years. Because of this, the only way our budget will grow is by increasing our student count. Without housing, the students will not come. And evidence suggests with this development, they will indeed come!

A few years ago the citizens of Hudson voted overwhelmingly to retain the tract of land known as the 'Northern Tier'. This decision was made with the intention development would occur, and that it would occur under the terms of our choosing. This proposed development calls for 67 single family homes, 20 Western Home Community duplexes, and the possibility of commercial development. In my opinion, this project is ideal for Hudson and will bring tremendous economic benefits to our community, protect and create jobs, increase the enrollment for our school district, and improve the quality of life for our entire citizenry.

The Cedar Valley is booming right now. You can't drive through Cedar Falls without noticing a plethora of development ranging from residential to commercial. That school district is building new schools and homes can't be built fast enough. I believe it is important for us to move forward now and do so without haste. A delay in making a decision could come with negative consequences. We can either take advantage of this boom and use the leverage and timing we have or miss out entirely. We must ask ourselves: Do we wish to be at the table, or do we wish to be on the menu?

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