Addressing Real Issues with Real Facts

Be Forewarned: Housing Policy and COLA Major Issues Before Council

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Review of the Town’s Housing Policy has been pending for some months now and will finally become one of the very important discussions during the Dec. 13 Work Session.

There is a new Council with new members who ran against more apartments yet have in recent months appeared to do an about face. Recently, particularly Duffy and Walden, have been proponents of changing the Housing Policy to favor more apartments. New P&Z members have also been named as of January 1—two have been in favor of approving apartments in the past. Katherine Wheeler was on P&Z for 6 years and was a strong proponent of all of Vitruvian apartments. Tom Braun was on P&Z and then served on the Council for 6 years; he approved Vitruvian as well as some of the Addison Circle apartments.

Back in mid-July it was revealed at a Council meeting that Councilmen Arfsten and Hughes said they had been contacted by AMLI about possible rezoning of land that the previous council had voted not to rezone. At that time it was said that AMLI had talked to two council members who supposedly told them to bring the issue back to the council and it would get approved. Concerns regarding this issue are what first placed the discussion of the Housing Policy on the council’s agenda. The issue has been pending ever since.

At the time, the City Manager said that a policy signals to developers whether their projects will have any chance of getting approved. His comment generated considerable discussion and the hour was late so the discussion was put on hold. Now that discussion is back on the table and given the controversy over more or less apartments, it is an important discussion that residents won’t want to let slide by.

The following current Housing Policy was passed and approved by the City Council on March 24, 2015

When new housing is proposed in Addison, the Addison City Council encourages it to be developed according to the following principles:

  1. New housing should increase the proportion of fee-simple ownership in Addison’s housing mix. Apartment-only zoning is unlikely to be approved, as currently the ratio of rental to ownership properties is higher than desired.
  1. A proposal should offer “best fit” mix of use and housing choices within the context of the surrounding Addison community. The Town may use a study area committee (with staff, elected, and appointed members such as area residents and business representatives) to evaluate a proposal’s fit in Addison.
  1. New housing should create or enhance neighborhoods of urban character rather than locate on a stand-alone, non-negotiated property and should continue the high quality design and walkability that makes Addison’s existing neighborhood distinctive.
  1. Proposals for independent and/or assisted living may be considered by the Town of Addison. Since there are no assisted living housing units in Addison today, the Town Hall will conduct research to understand how this housing could or should be included in Addison’s future.

The following are projects that are expected to possibly come before the new Council—several which would require a change in the Housing Policy.

  1. The property at Quorum (adjacent to the Intercontinental Hotel) that is currently zoned commercial may be revisited by AMLI. AMLI previously wanted to build an apartment building there but because of its location the previous Council believed the property was more ideally suited to office space, which fit into its current commercial zoning.
  1. The property on Addison Road across from Number 1 fire station (better known as the land where the white bulls reside) is currently zoned commercial with an agricultural exemption. This property is now being considered for apartments.
  1. The property at Beltline & Montfort, where the old Service Merchandise Building is currently located, is being considered by a builder wanting to construct a large 10-story apartment with 450 units.

Given recent controversy over apartments, being forewarned of what projects may come before the new Council, allows residents the opportunity to express their views about any of these possible projects sooner rather than later. But now is the time to get the facts and speak out!

Will Council Obligate General Fund for Next 15 Years?

The Council’s vote at next week’s meeting will determine whether our town’s unfunded liability will increase from $4.5M to $5M and whether the town will obligate its General Fund for nearly $1M over the next 15 years. And that’s assuming the TMRS fund receives its projected actuarial rate of return of 6.75% over those 15 years.  TMRS already reduced that return rate from the 7% return they previously established. Should return rates not meet the 6.75% rate, Addison will have to make up any difference in any of those fifteen years. Add this to construction costs for Belt Line Road and Midway Road overruns along with any unplanned costs over those years and the budget begins to be very stretched.

All this for a COLA raise while Addison residents who are retired from the regular workforce will receive the smallest one-year increase in the history of Social Security – 0.3%. You might want to check out what retirement pay is for some of these retirees before you support the idea—you might be surprised.

Over the past few weeks, taxpayers have been provided clear, detailed information on the actual costs for the proposed AD HOC COLA. The COLA, which covers 176 people who have retired with qualifying years of service to Addison as some part of their employment. According to TMRS there are an additional 265 “active” employees who currently work for or have worked for Addison, who are not yet drawing pension benefits.

There was also some confusion about the Consumer Price Index used by TMRS to determine COLA. This is NOT the same CPI that is used by Social Security. The two should not be confused or compared.

As written previously….this is not just a one year budget item. The total cost of fully funding the 2017 COLA is $835,695. That’s one year’s COLA increase, including an amount for not funding a COLA last year, but it’s paid out yearly at $55,695 over 15 years.

Then…should the Council consider and approve an annual repeating 70% COLA, that requires spending $24,569,751 over 25 years—a figure that equals roughly two-thirds of the Town’s 2016-2017 General Fund budget of $35,704,324.

Decisions made by this Council will impact YOUR future as well as generations to come. Now is NOT the time for being silent.   If you have an opinion—let it be known.

Photo Courtesy Flickr/Garry Knight

The Facts Matter Website is made possible through the generous donations from Angels of Addison.

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