Denison City Hall

The Denison City Council continued to keep housing on its front burner when members approved a small house subdivision and a letter of intent for an opportunity zone project last week.

On August 19, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the passage of a planned unit development (PUD) overlay district for the Fineran Addition on South Main Street to allow for the construction of smaller homes.

The city council approved the PUD contingent upon the development agreement with the city, Dennis Fineran and Rural Housing 360, and covenants.

The intent of a PUD is to encourage large-scale and quality development of vacant or underutilized tracts of land while using a unified building and site development plan.

Councilmember Nathan Mahrt said the Planning and Zoning Commission basically looked at the plat and approved it if the contingencies are met.

“We’re saying that’s OK in that subdivision as long as we meet the other criteria,” he explained.

Evan Blakley, a member of Planning and Zoning Commission, said that once the architects or planners lay the units out, Planning and Zoning wants to see plans again because the members had some concerns with sidewalks and parking because the lot widths are so narrow.

At the August 6 city council meeting, City Manager/City Engineer Terry Crawford explained that the lots would be for homes around 750 to 800 square feet.

He added that all the units would have basements. The units on the south side of the development would have tuck-under garages because the ground rises enough to allow for that.

The improvements are being paid with tax credits, said City Clerk Lisa Koch. The money will funnel through the city but the city will not outlay any cash. Rural Housing 360 is working on the tax credits.

The founder of Rural Housing 360, Steve Gilbert, had met with city officials, members of the Denison Community Housing Agency, county supervisors and others in July.

The letter of intent for the opportunity zone is with Strong America Development Group LLC, represented by Matt Campbell, an attorney and investment fund manager.

Campbell is originally from Manning but now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

His interest in the development originated through Denison’s designation as an opportunity zone.

An opportunity zone allows a method for those who have capital gains to reduce or eliminate federal and state taxes when they invest in a zone.

The letter of intent outlines the terms and conditions through which Strong America Development Group would enter into negotiations for an agreement on a proposed 45-unit development.

That development, proposed for three phases, would be on property located between the high school and the middle school.

Koch said no Tax Increment Finance payment would be made to the project until the start of fiscal year 2021. She explained it is expected that the first six units will be completed within a year. However, if the project doesn’t happen, the city wouldn’t have unnecessarily borrowed money in the current fiscal year.

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