Council approves housing study with CEDA

By : 
Jordan Gerard

In an effort to entice businesses to build or expand to Spring Grove and take stock of the city’s current housing situation, the Spring Grove City Council approved a housing study with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) at a special meeting on Tuesday, April 2.

That contract cost was $7,500, with the council and Economic Development Authority (EDA) picking up the remaining $2,500. Both entities will split that cost in half, with each paying $1,250.

The city received a $5,000 grant from Compeer Financial to conduct a study. They received four proposals, all with varying options in regards to included community engagement, presentation of findings, completion dates and more. The lowest proposal of those four came in at $9,200.

CEDA also presented a more “alternative” option that includes a contract to review Spring Grove’s current housing stock, a development opportunity profile, finding least expensive areas to develop, infrastructure development, community needs and recommendations, single family homes versus multi-family homes and suggestions for recruiting developers.

Councilmembers and EDA members opted for that choice because CEDA has worked with the city since 2016.

“Knowing us is a big deal, and what we’re going to get out of it is important,” Mayor Sarah Schroeder said.

Another product that could come out of the study is a comprehensive plan for the city that would explain where and when to develop land for housing, what incentives to offer businesses looking to expand or build in Spring Grove and other goals.

The last plan was completed in 2012, but it is hard to deduce what goals were completed. In general, it includes information on land use goals, transportation and economic development.

Schroeder said most of the goals were included under capital improvements.

“It depends on what you do with the data,” EDA Director Courtney Bergey said. “What are the things we can do now to set ourselves apart in three or five years?”

She mentioned many businesses would not consider building somewhere until they see data from a housing study. 

Spring Grove has never ordered a housing study for itself. Houston County ordered one in 2005 for the entire county. 

However, it wasn’t conducive to Spring Grove, since the study made Spring Grove “sound like a retirement community,” JC Nerstad said.

“It painted a bleak picture. It’s a lot more than that. The biggest thing for the small communities around here is having developments come from within. We rarely see someone come down from Rochester to develop lots.”

Nerstad cited his own development in 2005. He handled the roads, curbs and gutters while the city handled the utilities for the lots. 

In order to do something similar again, Nerstad said, “there needs to be ways to give incentives to sell or just have an enough of a demand to make them sell.”

The Bender addition in the southeast section of Spring Grove has seen all but one lot sold. The city could also create its own development too.

Two other communities, Cresco, Iowa, and Blooming Prairie, also partnered with CEDA for a housing study that showed both communities funding sources and recommended next steps.

Bergey and City Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel said they had talked to individuals interested in developing or expanding a business here.