Vergas HRA buys lots from county for $1 each
By Robert Williams
Both the Vergas City Council and Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners held meetings Tuesday, July 11, and made mutual decisions that will allow for future senior and affordable housing on the 11 tax-forfeited parcels within the City of Vergas known as the Sunny Oaks Addition.
Eight of the lots were sold from the county to the Vergas Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) at the cost of $1 per lot for development of affordable housing. The remaining three lots were conveyed to the Otter Tail County HRA for the development of senior housing.
The county HRA is currently developing senior housing in New York Mills, Ottertail and Vergas, with the aid of a grant application for funding. The three Vergas lots are earmarked for that. The bulk of state funding for the project is 2024 money, with the possibility of some grant money being awarded still this year. The project could begin as late as 2025.
Plans for the other eight lots will be discussed at future meetings of the Vergas EDA/HRA, the next being Tuesday, Aug. 1, after the July meeting was postponed due to scheduling during the Fourth of July holiday break.
“Nothing is going to happen overnight; it’ll be about a month before we receive those,” said Secretary-Treasurer Julie Lammers. “There are rules and regulations on what we can do with those lots.”
Initial thoughts include the Vergas HRA finding a developer for the entire eight lots of what would be income-based housing. Qualified applicants could also purchase and develop single lots.
Compounding the timeline issue is the availability of construction companies. Lammers noted during the June Vergas EDA/HRA meeting that her search for potential developers was responded to with a mutual unavailability at least until the fall of 2024.
OTC Community Development Director Amy Baldwin met with the Vergas EDA/HRA earlier this year to discuss these lots.
Baldwin and county HRA Executive Director Barbara Dacy were at the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning at a public hearing amending the powers ordinance of the Otter Tail County HRA and Community Development Agency (CDA).
According to Dacy, the hearing was about an amendment to the powers ordinance which describes the types of programs the HRA and CDA operate in the county.
The CDA is acting as the economic development authority, according to state law and the change was to remove the following language “a prohibition on CDA from operating income-restricted and rehabilitation programs.”
“What the ordinance does is delete that and say it’s okay for the CDA to do that,” said Dacy.
There were plans for the county CDA and HRA to merge, but that has been paused.
“In addition, the CDA has resources available to it now that it intends to operate programs that have income and rent restrictions,” Dacy said.
There was no public comment and the board will act on the proposed change at the next commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, July 25.