Hillsdale City Council members are seeking to make a deal with Eric Hoffman, member of Wickettstick Holdings LLC, regarding a potential 22-condominium housing development on Barnard Road in Hillsdale Township.
Wickettstick Holdings LLC, a property holding firm, has proposed a 425 agreement between the City of Hillsdale and Hillsdale Township that would extend water and sewer services to the property, but the estimated cost at $436,000 led council members to postpone a decision at Monday’s meeting until other options could be explored.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Hoffman explained that he understood the council’s concern for the cost of the project.
“After we had done some research in applying for this 425 agreement, I have talked to a few City Council members and it has become clear to me that everybody is in favor of expanding the city, but no one wants to pay for it, which I understand,” he said.
Hoffman said that contrary to many council members who he said don’t think the proposed 22 units are realistic, he believes that the number is very feasible.
“I think that is very realistic,” he said. “If I could do more, I probably would.”
Even if only eight units were built in the first five years of the agreement, Hoffman said the city would make $59,000 in taxes.
“That’s paying back the entire loan without raising anyone’s taxes or BPU rates,” he said.
Without even proposing final prices or revealing floor plans, Hoffman said he has seven to eight parties interested in the condos.
“There is a desperate need in the city for condominiums,” Hoffman said. “There are college professors that want to come into town and have nowhere to live. There are retirees that no longer want to maintain an acre lot and do their leaf pickup now in bags. There are many different reasons as to why people want to put condos in. They don’t have to take care of those things.”
He is confident, Hoffman said, that 22 units could go in and be filled with residents.
“I’m not scared of whether 22 units are going to go in, but I understand your reservations,” Hoffman said. “I think it is a great opportunity to grow the city. There is no other way to grow the city.”
Councilman Bruce Sharp said his main concern was that the starting price to buy one unit is $275,000.
“With the income in Hillsdale County being based at where it is, I find it hard to find people actually moving in there,” Sharp said.
He noted that previous housing projects have not always been successful.
“Here you want us to run a water, sewer line up there and annex it into the city,” Sharp said. “I hold great reservations on that. I am very concerned. We need to fix the streets in this town.”
If everything does not go as planned, Sharp said, the people would have to pay the price.
“We take $463,000 — that’s what the estimated cost was to run it out there — and that concerns me because if for some reason if this fails, the people at BPU, the users of BPU not only in Hillsdale but in Osseo and Pittsford, all those people are going to pay the cost because we’re going to have to raise the rates,” he said. “That concerns me.”
Councilman Matt Bell said that while he shares Sharp’s concerns, he hopes to be able to reach a balance between the city and the developers.
“The balance to me would be something where the city has part of the risk and the developer holds part of the risk,” Bell said. “We do want to encourage business, we do want to encourage development, and we do want to encourage people to build.”
The council did not reach a final decision regarding the city’s involvement with the proposed development. They requested that both the city manager and the city attorney look into the idea of taking the money from $59,000 in taxes that the city will receive from the condos to pay Hoffman back for the work that he is putting into extending the water and sewer lines. Hoffman said he is willing to front the money if he can get paid back for it.
Discussion will continue after the city manager and the city attorney are able to research legal options for the city.