Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ray's in the dog house with the city of Kuna

Ray’s Dog House, on Main Street in downtown Kuna, makes a great hot dog. I’ve also had the pleasure of enjoying their chorizo and their Philly cheesesteak on more than one occasion. Perfect grill marks, onions and peppers grilled to perfection. French fries were an excellent addition to the menu earlier this year.
Unfortunately, it seems that Ray’s Dog House is itself in the dog house with the city of Kuna.
In just the past couple of months, Dog House owner, Ray Carrel, has been kept running from violation to violation issued by the city’s building inspector. Complaints against the Dog House include everything from grease disposal to the width of the gate to the steps into the building to a hood over the grill and fryer operations and apparent issues with the cooler.
My hope is that the city will work with Ray and give him time to address their complaints. And I hope Ray will get done the things he needs to get done so that he can stay open and continue to grow his business. Then on July 15, 2010, the day his temporary business permit expires, that seems like the more proper day to determine the future of Ray’s Dog House in Kuna.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kuna local improvement district issue coming to a head

Kuna City Council members are scheduled to meet with property owners who are part of the local improvement district that’s funding the new wastewater treatment plant.
Council members will meet in a special meeting with LID members starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at City Hall.
The council scheduled the meeting after getting out of executive session last week. The executive session was held to discuss litigation or potential litigation on two cases, according to city attorney Randy Grove. One case apparently concerns potential litigation over the local improvement district.
Grove said “there is a noticeable rise in the anger and tension” among LID owners as he saw at a meeting a couple of weeks back. That’s certainly understandable.
The ironic thing in all of this is that LID members jumped into the LID four years ago under the assumption that they wouldn’t be able to develop their property at all if they weren’t a part of the LID. But now, landowners who are not in the LID may actually have an easier time developing their property and purchasing sewer connections on an as-needed basis. It seems to me that the LID owners have plenty to be disgruntled about, and the city would do well, however late, to listen to their concerns.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Add a small caveat to the debate over small houses in Kuna

Mic, a general contractor and Kuna business owner, pulled me aside after the meeting to point out something regarding a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about smaller house sizes in Kuna. I think it’s a good point that’s worth repeating. Mic said that smaller houses, valued at, say, $87,000, don’t pay nearly enough in property taxes to cover provided services. That’s why it behooves the city to require larger house sizes that generally have a higher assessed value, which in turn triggers higher property taxes. With smaller house sizes and not enough property tax to cover provided services, the end result will be higher taxes for everyone.
I pointed out that my column did say that I agree with allowing smaller houses temporarily, as a short-term fix but not a long-term solution. This fiscal year, for example, the city is expecting to collect about $1.4 million in property taxes. Nearly all of that — $1.24 million — goes toward police services. The city relies on building activity for a large chunk of its general fund revenue, which totals $2.8 million this year.
In 2009, smaller houses, which pay the same amount as large houses in building permit fees, have made up the bulk of single-family building permits. Had the city prohibited builders from building these small houses, the city’s coffers would have been considerably smaller. If the city were to disallow small houses in the coming 12 months, the city might see a fraction of building permits pulled. If that were to happen, the city could see its $300,000 in annual building permit revenue decimated. Then, come next year’s budget cycle, the city would be faced with either making hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts or, you guessed it, raising taxes. More likely a combination.
So, as I suggested in my column, the city should allow some smaller houses now to capitalize on the market trend but not let it go on indefinitely.
That said, Mic pointed out that I should have taken it a step further. The city needs to come up with a formula for determining just how many small houses, medium-size houses and large houses are required in order to strike the proper balance, not only for the look and feel of the city but also for the financial impacts they have on the budget.
That’s an excellent suggestion. I would like to see Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council members have a tool like that the next time a developer comes before them requesting smaller houses.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some life lessons for my two boys

Dear Luke and Robert,
You boys are growing up to be fine young men, and it has been the great joy in my life to have watched you grow up these past few years. While I’m thinking of it — and before you grow up too quickly — I thought I’d share with you some of the life lessons your dad has learned along the way.
My favorite job title: Dad. Not editor, not business owner, not journalist, not newspaperman. My favorite thing to be called is Dad. I never tire of hearing you boys call me Dad. It’s my favorite thing to be. I hope you get a chance to be a dad some day.
Best compliment your wife can give you: You’re a good man. Do things that will make her say that often.
My favorite slogan: Just do it. With acknowledgments to the old Nike advertising campaign, I find this slogan holds up in many job and life situations. There are always a thousand excuses NOT to do something. There were plenty of reasons not to quit my newspaper job to buy a weekly newspaper 2,000 miles away in Idaho. Along the way, I have found that just about every business decision — every life decision, for that matter — you make, there are plenty of reasons to keep you from making a move. Sure, be careful and studious and thoughtful, but at a certain point, after deliberate consideration, Just do it.
To steal another quote, this time from Woody Allen, 80 percent of success is showing up. Although meant as a joke, I have found this to be true in life. And just showing up is often the hardest thing to do. I think about attending every City Council meeting for the past three years. I think about getting up and out the door early in the morning to go to a school board meeting. I think about driving to Rathdrum for a state playoff game. Just show up and find out what happens. In a lot of ways, this one goes back to the Just do it lesson. Just showing up, you’ll find, puts you ahead of most people.
I have more in this week's Editor's Notebook in the Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Will it be possible for the city of Kuna to compromise on smaller house sizes?

The city of Kuna should be in for some tough decisions regarding smaller lot sizes and smaller houses.
Right now, the city of Kuna is the hottest real estate game in town, mostly because of the quick sales of some of the smallest houses in the Treasure Valley. At 850 to 1140 square feet, houses in the Silvertip Subdivision, south of town off Luker Road, have been flying off the shelves, something to the tune of about 50 houses built and sold in just the last three or four months.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the new residents of these houses, and they are to be considered a welcome addition to Kuna. One woman I met, a widow who moved back to the Treasure Valley from Florida, was looking for a smaller house and yard to take care of but large enough to hold a lifetime of belongings. The one-story, 1100-square-foot house was perfect and the small town of Kuna reminds her of the town she was born in in Kentucky.
She will be turning her entire back yard into a vegetable and flower garden — no lawn to mow. She’ll have no stairs to climb, but she’ll have enough room for relatives to come stay with her.
In a way, she’s a perfect argument for building smaller houses. She’s a model citizen and she’s part of a growing generation of empty nesters looking to downsize.
However, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, city planning director Steve Hasson recognizes that we have to avoid becoming the “starter capital of the world.”
I think Hasson has the right idea with allowing some concessions in the short term without making blanket changes to development agreements.
For example, if someone with a 100-house subdivision wants to build smaller houses, let him build one phase of 20 or 30 houses at a smaller square footage but require houses thereafter to be larger.
That way, the city can keep the hot Kuna market going and still protect its future.