Diversity and managed housing growth is the key to thriving, say O’Fallon city leaders.
In 2017, more than 150 new homes were built. The forecast for the new year is just as robust, and two new subdivisions will open.
“Based on feedback from developers, they have over 50 lots sold and ready for development, or they have started for 2018 already,” Mayor Herb Roach said.
“We have had good solid growth, and we have managed our growth,” said Community Development Director Ted Shekell.
“We have had 350 to 400 homes during the last three, four years, but we want to make sure this is not a strain on our infrastructure, because that influx takes a toll. We want to keep up with that,” Shekell said. “We see good infrastructure as an investment.”
City Administrator Walter Denton described O’Fallon’s growth as “sustainable.”
He said new subdivisions cover different income levels, and O’Fallon can still have attractive starter homes and affordable senior housing.
“We have both ends of the income spectrum,” he said.
Mayor Roach agreed. “Another attractive thing about our growth is that the availability covers a full spectrum. It goes from some of the nicest homes in the area to some very affordable housing for our seniors,” he said.
In the new year, more than 50 senior villas will open — the Villas at Lincoln Park, which will offer 1 and 2-bedroom independent units
“We have a new area for seniors that will start occupancy right after the start of the year,” Roach said.
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, developers have tailored offerings to accommodate older residents.
“It’s for ‘aging in place,’ so that people can retire and stay where they live,” Denton said. “They have a support network here, and friends, and don’t have to move to Florida or Arizona.”
Shekell noted that they have new homes under $200,000 available, which can be rare to find.
The City Council recently reduced the real estate tax levy by 4 percent, to the level it was in 2014.
The city is committed to re-investing in its residents, Roach said. The recent rollback of property tax is proof.
“Our rate is the lowest of any communities in Madison or St. Clair County that have a population of 20,000 or more, Roach said.
Even when the economy took a drastic dive in fall 2008, housing growth was steady in O’Fallon.
“We did survive, and we had about 100 homes built a year,” Shekell said. “Our sales tax revenue dropped.”
Denton said the city adheres to a strategic plan that accommodates for about 600 new residents a year.
“The biggest investment people make in their lives is their home. We support keeping property values up. People want to live in a place that’s vibrant, that has things to do and places to go,” Shekell said.
But since 1854, O’Fallon’s strong sense of community has always been part of its appeal.
Shekell said they also want the city’s core and downtown to be vibrant.
“With plans for the downtown plaza to be an event space, we see this as bringing new life to the area. We encourage and support a resurgence in downtown. We see the quality of downtown as a solid investment,” he said. “The downtown is still the heartbeat of a community. It’s still very positive.”
In addition to amenities, O’Fallon has always had a small-town component, Shekell said.
“It is a very neighborhood-friendly community. We feel that is part of its charm. We have consistently maintained that small-town atmosphere,” he said.
The city officials also noted that they work with a good group of local builders, too.
“When the economy took a hit, the local builders stayed, and the St. Louis builders went back. The local builders have made long-term investments,” Shekell said.
Denton said maintaining high standards helps. Shekell agreed.
“It has to be done right. We’re not just filling up space for the short-term,” Shekell said. “We’ve been pretty consistent, and we reinforce that. It’s got to be the right fit in the right place.”
The council has been supportive in its decisions, they said.
“Once you build something, it’s there. We have to have a vision of what we want it to be. How we do it makes a difference,” Shekell said.
O’Fallon developments that have been built, approved or in planning stages:
Augusta Greens: 156 single-family lots
Windsor Creek: 42 single-family homes
The Reserves of Timber Ridge: 157 single-family homes
Illini Trails: 54 homes
Parkview Meadows: 49 homes
Lincoln Park Villas: 72 senior living units
Bethel Farms: 101 single-family lots