Highland News Leader

City of Highland considers programs to spur home improvements, sales

Highland homeowners may soon be able to make enhance their property at a cheaper price.

The City Council on Monday agreed to have new home building fee ordinance drafted by City Attorney John Long.

Officials are looking at changing fees to help spur remodeling within the city.

On Monday, Lisa Peck, Highland’s economic development and marketing director, updated the City Council on the proposal.

City Councilman Aaron Schwarz asked Peck and Chief Building and Zoning Official Kevin Limestall to verify if the Illinois Department of Public Health plumbing inspectors can provide plumbing inspection at no costs to residents.

“This information is still correct,” Peck said. “Should a permit applicant desire to have the state of Illinois Plumbing Inspectors perform the inspections for their job, the city will provide them with the telephone number, and it is up to them coordinate with the state.”

Peck pointed out that once all state plumbing inspections have been completed and passed by the state, the permit applicant is responsible to provide to the city written documentation from the state inspector to obtain a certificate of occupancy when their total construction project is completed.

Limestall recommended several changes to building permit fee schedule in an April 28 memorandum to the City Council and Mayor Joe Michaelis. He followed up that memo with a May 26 memo, stating the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Committee reviewed the building permit fees. The committee has recommended the city leave the fee for new home at its current $1,086 rate (not including connection fees).

But for a “simple addition” to a single family residence, the committee recommended reducing the fees to 50 percent of the current rate, and fora “simple remodel” to a single family residence, reduce the fees to 25 percent of the current rate.

“Staff considered several options when reviewing how to handle our contracted out inspections (electrical and plumbing),” Limestall said.

Those options included:

▪ leaving programs and fees as is;

▪  paying inspectors a flat hourly rate;

▪  contracting out inspections to an adjacent agency or private company; and

▪ eliminating the contract inspectors and have the owner or general contractor performing the work to sign off they have done the work to code.

“(But) taking this last option with no code follow up inspections, there is no assurance that the work meets the minimal code,” Limestall said.

Last year, Highland issued 200 building permits. But only four of the building permits were for new home construction, Limestall said.

Homebuyer Program

In the meantime, the city is looking at starting a Community Development Homebuyer Program to assist people with the purchase of a home in historic Highland (now defined with Hemlock on the west, Poplar Street on east, Sixth Street on the north and 21st Street on the south).

City Councilwoman Peg Bellm suggested the city might want to look at expanding the defined area to include 5th Street.

Under the current proposed program, the city would provide a home buyer a five-year, forgivable loan for a maximum of $3,000 if they purchase a home in the defined area.

There are now a number of homes for sale in this area. Some of these homes are now being rented.

The city hopes by offering this program, it will help stabilize and revitalize downtown.

The program would be administered by the Community Development Department with the assistance of local participating lending institutions and realtors.

City officials are now defining eligible properties that would qualify under the program.

Under the draft proposal, the property being purchased may be either a detached single-family home or condominium.

“This program (at this time) will not lend money for the purchase of rental property, manufactured or mobile homes,” Peck said.