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'New Richmond Land Rush' is on

City officials estimate there are 700 to 800 lots in New Richmond that are all set for development. The new Land Rush program is designed to fill a few of them up.

Like the land rush that helped build up the American wild west, New Richmond is poised to open up the flood gates of development over the next few years.

Dubbed the "New Richmond Land Rush," the city has decided to suspend collection of its impact fees and sewer access charges to help spur development in the community.

Due to the nation's down economy and high gas prices, New Richmond's residential and commercial growth has been slow over the past two or three years. Prior to the downturn, the city had enjoyed double-digit growth in some years.

City Council member Jim Zajkowski said he's not sure what the fee waiver will do for development, but he said he knows it can't hurt. There have been no permits issued so far this year for new homes.

"We want to be different from everyone else," Zajkowski told a group of home builders, landowners and real estate agents at a finance committee meeting Tuesday morning. "We're trying to be the first ones on the block to do this. Others may try to follow us ... but we want to make the big splash right away."

On a typical residential home, the fees on new construction averages about $8,500, according to Planning and Community Development Director Robert Barbian.

The savings for a commercial building could be significantly higher. As an example, the sewer access charge for a new restaurant building can be thousands of dollars, and that fee would be waived if the business finishes construction in the next three years.

"This is going to spur development in New Richmond," Zajkowski said confidently. "We're trying to do something, instead of sitting on our hands."

The hope is that builders will also drop the price of their lots to further promote development. In the case of some home builders, several lots will be made available for less than $10,000 each.

"We all need to work together," said Alderman Kirk Van Blaircom. "Everybody realizes we have to be competitive."

Zajkowski said city officials have often heard the complaint that New Richmond's impact fees and sewer access charges are too high. That obviously won't be an obstacle for the next few years, he explained.

"We're trying to create a little bit of excitement," Barbain said. "We don't want to sit back and not have anything happen."

The proposal waives the typical city fees if land for a home or commercial/industrial building is purchased by Dec. 31, 2012.

Construction on any structure would then need to be completed by Aug. 31, 2014 in order to qualify for the "Land Rush" incentive program. If a building is finished after that deadline, the impact fees and sewer access charges will be applied.

Barbian said the community plans to promote the "Land Rush" within a 30 to 40 mile radius of New Richmond. Officials hope to create a buzz that eventually leads to more homes and more jobs.

Part of the promotional effort will be a special page on New Richmond's website indicating what builders are involved in the special offer.

There are currently 700 to 800 residential lots ready for homes within the city, Zajkowski said. A number of commercial and industrial lots are also available for bigger projects as well.