Builders: Homes depend on jobs

SPRING GROVE – Jobs are needed to get the housing market in Spring Grove moving again, one developer told the Spring Grove Village Board.

“You can’t buy a house if you don’t have a job,” developer Mark Buschman said. “You can’t get a loan if you don’t have a job. You can’t get a loan if you do have a job.”

Buschman is the chief operating officer of Buschman Homes, which developed two subdivisions in Spring Grove – HeartLand Crossing and StoneCreek Crossing.

There are 323 vacant lots in Spring Grove.

All of HeartLand Crossing’s 35 lots are empty.

For the most part, those numbers haven’t changed since the housing market crashed in 2008.
That year, the village issued 11 building permits for new homes. The next year it issued none.
It issued five permits in 2010, four in 2011 and three last year.

Those numbers have Village President Mark Eisenberg and village trustees asking whether there’s anything the village can do to bring back development.

Two developers attended the meeting, and Eisenberg spoke to a third, Kim Meier of KLM Builders, on the phone before the meeting.

Builders seeing some movement are closer to job centers, Buschman said.

Ron Weidner, who primarily is a commercial developer, pointed to the state’s pension troubles and concerns that those could be passed along to residents through property taxes.

“There’s a lot of unknowns,” he said.

In terms of what the village can do, Buschman said the village’s special service areas are a “real hard thing to market against,” and he cited the village’s requirements for new homes.

Because of the minimum lot size in Spring Grove, property taxes weren’t covering the cost of infrastructure, Eisenberg said. The special service areas were passed to cover the difference. The amount that can be levied under the special service area is capped at $500 per property, he said.

School districts could also look at their impact fees, Weidner said.

“You could build a house, but a family with four kids isn’t going to come in,” he said. “You’re going to have empty nesters.”

The impact fee is currently $2.11 per square foot of living space, according to village documents.

The village has its own fees, including the building permit, which costs $1.15 per square foot of living space, and a park impact fee, which runs from $1,211 for a two-bedroom to $3,630 for a five-bedroom.

Waiving the fees, though, isn’t going to solve the problem caused by foreclosures, Trustee Pat Mazzanti said.

Foreclosed houses are selling for more than $100,000 less than what it would cost the developer to build the house, according to numbers provided from Eisenberg’s conversation with Meier.

Fees aren’t going to cover that difference, Mazzanti said.

The solution would be to market to a different audience and not compete with the foreclosures, Buschman said.

All in all, though, Weidner said, there isn’t much the village can do to help him.

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