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Mitchell residents near planned development push back on special assessment for infrastructure funding

“We have a contractor that wants to put sewer, water, street and gutter along our backyard. I have no problem with that, it’s his land, but he should pay for it,” said Terry Timmins, a homeowner residing near the South Lake Estates development

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Shown here is the land where the South Lake Estate development is planned to be built along North Ohlman Street.
Sam Fosness / Republic
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MITCHELL — A housing development planned for the south side of Lake Mitchell is heading for the design phase, but some nearby residents voiced their frustrations Monday about the process being used to fund the infrastructure for the development.

Prior to the Mitchell City Council approving engineers to begin designing phase one of the housing development slated for a patch of roughly 40 acres of land along North Ohlman Street, a couple nearby residents pushed back on the developer’s plans to pay for the project’s infrastructure through a special assessment.

“We have a contractor that wants to put sewer, water, street and gutter along our backyard. I have no problem with that, it’s his land, but he should pay for it,” resident Terry Timmins said of the developer. “I feel that the contractor should cover the cost of all this. We have no use for the sewer, water, gutters and streets.”

The South Lake Estates housing development that seeks to bring over 100 homes to the area is being led by local real estate developer Chuck Mauszycki, along with the help of a new nonprofit housing organization called Mitchell Area Housing Incorporated (MAHI).

A city ordinance allows developers looking to build a housing project to assess nearby property owners who may utilize a development’s new roads, curb and gutters. When property owners are assessed for new infrastructure installed adjacent to their properties, they are requested to pay for a portion as part of the new development build out.

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While Mauszycki is pursuing a special assessment for a portion of the existing residents who live along the edge of the development for the future infrastructure, a growing number of affected property owners like Timmins have pushed back on having to pay any assessments for the housing project that numerous residents in the area have said they do not want.

Timmins indicated during Monday’s council meeting that a group of nearby residents who are opposed to the special assessment that’s on the table are planning to take legal action if the developers don’t take on all of the costs needed to bring the new infrastructure.

As a suggestion, Timmins urged the council to work out an agreement with the developers that requires them to pay for “100% of the costs” of the infrastructure within the new development.

“To not take you by surprise, we’ve already gotten a group together to hire a lawyer to fight this assessment. That’s why I’m suggesting you to get into an agreement with the developer now for him to pay for 100% of the costs,” Timmins said.

Jeff McCormick, an engineer with SPN and Associates leading the design phase of the development, provided more details on the special assessment. He indicated that the special assessments may be broken down in a way based on “benefit and linear footage of use.”

“Those are all items we will work through to better define those costs. The resolution for special assessments has not been put in place yet,” McCormick said.

At a July city Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Chris Wieczorek, a nearby homeowner who would be among those assessed, said he was recently presented with a roughly $21,000 assessment from project leaders.

Wieczorek pointed to the $21,000 special assessment he’s been pitched with as an “unwanted expense” that could force his family to move from the area.

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“That is a burdensome amount for us as a family, and it puts us in a position where we have a serious possibility to either sell our home or afford that in the long run by a loan or something like that,” Wieczorek said during the July 11 Planning Commission meeting. “We are trying to live in a neighborhood we really enjoy.”

The Mitchell Area Housing Incorporated has plans to help pay for the infrastructure in phase one through a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district, which is subject to the Mitchell City Council’s approval. Wieczorek said he was informed the TIF would shave off about $20,000 of the initial $42,000 special assessment he was presented with. Regardless of the cost reduction, he and other nearby residents have indicated they are against the assessment.

Jeff Lanning, a homeowner who owns four lots next to the development, echoed Timmins’ suggestion to work out an agreement requiring the developer to fund all of the infrastructure work.

“Doing the road, water and sewer is of no benefit to us. We have no plans on selling it. At this point, I’d like to agree with him (Timmins) on the predevelopment agreement,” Lanning said.

Representatives with MAHI housing organization and Mauszycki did not speak at Monday’s council meeting.

McCormick provided a rough timeline for the project. He estimated the engineering design work would take a few months. He said the intention is to “move quickly with the project” due to potential funding methods to help the development materialize.

The master plan for the South Lake Estates development has already been approved by the council. In addition, the land where the project is planned has been platted for future housing for several decades. Mauszycki previously said the value of the homes he’s planning to put up in the development would hover around $300,000.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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