Why does Boonville need to grow its household base? That’s the question a select committee formed by former mayor Julie Thacher and supported by current Mayor Ned Beach has sought to answer since February.

The committee was formed after a November 2017 Municipal Facilities Authority housing symposium.

Sam Giroux, committee co-chair, presented the committee’s findings to the Boonville City Council at Monday’s meeting. The committee found both equal and opposite answers to its main question on increasing the city’s household base. In general, there are Boonville residents who would prefer the community keep its small town feel — both in amenities and population — whereas other residents see growth as an overall positive, which would allow for more diverse opportunities.

According to the findings, the city will need to look at land availability, developer relationships, competition, marketing and government relations to successfully expand housing.

Lots of lots

The city has a number of ways to offer land to developers or acquire land for development. Currently, Boonville does not own enough land within the city limits to accommodate a residential housing subdivision. It does, however, have a number of lots in which a private individual may construct single unit residential housing.

The city also may try contacting landowners within city limits with parcels large enough for housing subdivisions, such as 120 acres owned by Big G Ranch LLC and 138 acres owned by Paul and Debora Davis.

The city could also annex parcels of land outside of city limits. The committee has identified an approximate 145 acre parcel owned by Gilbert Oswald and a number of properties along Jackson Road. According to the report, the landowners have indicated their willingness to sell.

Why even develop?

Giroux said housing developers indicated to the committee reasons for reticence.

“The vast majority (of developers) didn’t really know much about the city of Boonville in terms of … success rates,” Giroux said. “We just don’t have a current history of development in the city of Boonville. So the risk is obviously increased a little by that,” he said.

The last time a housing development was established within the Boonville city limits was approximately 10 years ago, according to the report. So, there isn’t enough recent data to see if the properties in a subdivision will sell in a timely manner.

A certain type of need

Giroux said residential housing builds have slowed in Columbia. “Columbia is running out of land,” he said. “They’re becoming landlocked because of their borders and developers are going to start looking at other opportunities outside of the city.”

The committee looked at housing that would range in price from $180,000-230,000, or those who are within more of the middle income bracket.

“There’s a hole within Columbia that is not being served right now,” Giroux said, adding homes in south end of Columbia are in the price range of $300,000 or more.

A formal marketing campaign could entice those seeking a more affordable home in a community outside the ever-increasing hustle and bustle of Columbia, the report indicated.

Competition awareness

The city should make sure they take competition into account when pricing for development. The committee found two developments outside of city limits. Timberlake would have homes priced at $250,000 or higher. Village South would be priced competitive to developments inside city limit, but it still would be a net positive as it could increase the area’s total home growth, according the the report. The competition could drive development that would possibly help a third development — Santa Fe Ridge — which has sold a number of lots but most are still owned by the developer, according to the report.

Perception is everything

The biggest turn-off developers indicated to the committee is a perceived animosity between developers and city staff. According to the report, part of of this perceived animosity is city staff’s persistence in following ordinances and policies to maintain public safety. Another part is the lack of access to key personnel for questions and the lag between placed and returned phone calls from developers to city staff.

The committee suggested making it easier to find ordinances and policies relating to development could help improve relations and bridge gaps faster when working with developers.

“The city can be known as a promoter of progress, rather than a pain in the neck,” the report read.

In other business:

Council members considered a pay request and a change order from Concrete Solutions LLC for $49,377.46 and $1,625, respectively, for Krohn Street curb and gutter improvements. The requests were approved by all members. The payment and change are part of an already established contract between the city and Concrete Solutions LLC.

The council also considered a pay request from Lehman Construction LLC of $127,889.22 for conducting flow equalization at the wastewater treatment facility. The request was approved by all members. The payment is part of an already established contract between the city and Lehman Construction LLC.

Council members resolved to enter into a service contract with Socket Telecom. The contract will improve the city’s internet infrastructure between its buildings through use of fiber optics. According to a provided services form, there is a $50,000 set-up and installation charge and a monthly recurring service charge of $2,000.

The Boonville City Council renewed an agreement with Prairie Home at Monday’s meeting. The city of Prairie Home initially entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Boonville in April 2016 to perform limited home inspection services within its community. Prairie Home cannot afford a full-time city building inspector and requested Boonville’s aid.