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Use of paper mill land for Habitat not in best interest of the public

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 5:00 a.m. CDT

As I understand the proposal, the city buys the 1 1/2 acre paper mill property for $150,000 and prepares the lots for Habitat for Humanity to build three homes for Title 8 tenants.

My first concern about this plan is cost. Up to $200,000 may be spent by the city for purchase and clearance of land to be given or leased to a private charity. I suppose no real estate tax will be collected in the future.

My second concern is the undesirability of spending public and charity money to provide housing in competition with the private rental market.  It should be both possible and preferable to house the prospective tenants in presently available rental apartments, helping present property owners as well as the welfare families.

Finally, the city should limit its forays into the private sector — the downtown TIF will probably end up being further proof of  this. If the mill property is not a public nuisance, the owner may be right in hoping for some better use of this property than housing, and should be required to meet ordinances if it is a nuisance.

A policy of converting private property to public or non-profit use drives up taxes and accelerates business flight.

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