With the municipal elections passed and the final votes tallied, the Heath City Council used the meeting before the new mayor and council member sworn in May 15 to hear from the proposed Heath Golf and Yacht club developers and pass legislation that will move that project forward.
The council approved the final count for the election with the special election for beer and wine sales passing, 961 votes for and 538 against. The closest race was by newcomers Brian Berry and John Curtis fighting for place five on the city council. Berry won the race with 56 percent (733 votes) while Curtis walked away with 43 percent (561 votes). City council incumbent Julie Zurek beat challenger Joan Ream, more than doubling Reams 404 votes (29 percent) with 971 votes (70 percent). Councilmember Lorne Liechty won the position of mayor with 100 percent of the vote, as he ran unopposed.
“I am very excited about it,” newly appointed Mayor Lorne Liechty said. “I have worked here in the city in various capacities for 16 years and during those 16 years we have had fabulous mayors; first Chris Cuny for 10 years and now John Ratcliffe for eight years, those guys have done a superb job and I have got big shoes to fill. We are right on the cusp of some really exciting things happening here in the city. Tonight we had the Heath Golf and Yacht club concept plan approved and that zoning approved; that is going to be a fabulous development. It is going to increase the tax base, bring a top quality development, a full blown country club right here into Heath. With the beer and wine election [passing] we think we are about to get some good commercial development, not excessive retail but good quality retail so that people in Heath can shop in Heath and the sales tax that they pay can come to the city of Heath.”
Before the council voted to pass the zoning and concept plan for the Heath Golf and Yacht club as well as a revised escrow agreement with its developers, they had a workshop detailing the changes to the plan since the council had seen it last. Some of the things the developers had changed were suggestions from the city staff and council and included street widths, building standards that exceed the city’s own, trails open to the public, a new bridge, and improvements to the water infrastructure.
“We have all got our issues,” Mayor Liechty said. “We are trying to protect the city and they’re looking out for their side and everybody knows that but it is a good working relationship.”
The ordinance passed unanimously of council and also included specifications for the welcome centers hours of operation, a lot summary showing lot sizes, and landscaping requirements.
Though an earlier escrow agreement with the developers was supposed to cover expenses associated with the city’s side of attorney and engineering fees related to the golf and yacht club, the $40,000 allocated was not enough. The revised agreement passed by the council set the total at $105,000 with the remaining $65,000 to be paid upon closing.
“At some point I ask you to stand back and take a look at the impact this project is going to have, which overall is going to be a very positive deal on a revenue standpoint,” developer Chris Cuny said. “We are talking about an ad valorem value that they are bringing with this project is $700 million over a ten year period. Which is almost what the city’s current ad valorem base is and that is going to be built over time. The other thing about this project is there is a tax component; a sales tax component based on the golf course. This goes straight to the bottom line for the city and it is a significant number when you look at the social membership and all.”
A public hearing about the golf and yacht club gave residents a chance to ask questions and voice opinions, one of which being the city’s fiscal responsibility in developing roads as well as water and wastewater for the development. City Manager Ed Thatcher said that the bonds for roads and capital improvements for the district will be floated and paid for by the district.
“The city has no obligation; this will not affect the city’s tax rate at all,” Cuny said.
Though this is one of the largest and most costly developments in Heaths history, the council and city staff has been putting in their time and effort to ensure that the project reflects Heath.
“I do realize a lot of people are seeing significant change by this and folks in my neighborhood are also going to see significant change and we may not like some of it but I think I have said before on the council that this is probably the best thing that a lot of us could have asked for,” Councilmember Rich Krause said. “Overall this is very positive and we are very fortunate to have these public servants working so hard on our behalf as well as our staff.”