Brookings is making another step toward getting new home construction in housing-strapped Curry County.

City council plans to discuss in a workshop Monday how to amend a financing agreement it has with U.S. Borax Corp., which under a 2006 plan can build up to 1,000 homes in Lone Ranch, a new subdivision north of Southwestern Oregon Community College.

The council will also discuss affordable housing at its workshop, which begins at 4 p.m. at city hall.

Borax Corp., has completed a timber harvest, updated infrastructure cost estimates and made some decisions on making parts of the land available to housing developers through sales reimbursement agreements, City Manager Gary Milliman wrote in a report to council.

The former agreement, entered into in 2009, calls for Borax to pay to complete water and sewer facilities to support the Lone Ranch development. In return, it would be reimbursed for part of the costs from the city’s System Development Charges (SDCs).

“The city council indicated they would like to see some incentives offered to get the housing market going and affordable housing on the ground,” Milliman said. “We’ll see if (the changes) fit with that goal.”

The first hurdle

The major hurdle, Milliman said, is to complete a sewer line along U.S. 101 to include a large lift station and about 5,300 feet of sewer main. The improvements are also needed to serve the college and several other private properties along the way. In addition, the city has received inquiries regarding annexations between Harris Beach State Park and the college.

Milliman said the city is preparing an $8 million to $10 million loan and grant application to the USDA Rural Development program to fund the system, including some areas south of Moore Street needed to serve build-outs in the Lone Ranch project.

It expects to receive about $2 million. That’s where the SDCs come into play.

The city has been spending SDC revenue — used to fund infrastructure for new development — to pay off debt from the wastewater treatment plant. But there is $680,000 in the coffer today that has not been allocated, Milliman said.

The estimated cost of a new pump station, proposed near Taylor Creek and Longacre Road, is $628,000; the cost of the sewer main is estimated to be $703,000.

Borax officials have said sewer improvement costs needed would result in a $40,000 increase in cost per house sold if the initial development phase has about 60 units.

“This is seen as a major obstacle to attracting a housing developer,” Milliman said.

Proposed changes

The city is now proposing to no longer require Borax pay for the 23 percent of the sewer improvements south of Moore Street, estimated at $262,000.

Instead, the city would pay for the cost of the lift station using SDC revenue — with conditions:

•Borax pays for the construction of the 5,300-foot-long sewer main and either,

•Sells at least one of the housing neighborhoods to a private developer who would agree to begin construction within 12 months, complete at least 15 units in 18 months and 40 within 36 months. Also, a minimum of 20 percent of the 50 housing units must be available to low- and moderate-income households, or

•Borax donates property in one of its neighborhoods to a non-profit housing development agency, which would provide a plan for financing and start constructing at least 40 below-marking homes within 18 months.

“The goal of these changes is to provide an incentive to developers to begin (building homes), including affordable housing, make sewer service available to other property owners along the highway and to the community college,” Milliman said. “I think it’s a reasonable approach.”

Under the current agreement, the city is also to reimburse Borax for 83 percent of the cost of the lift station from SDC fees collected from new users of the line north of Carpenterville Road. The current SDC is $11,102 per unit.

In the new agreement, Borax would receive no share of the SDCs for this part of the improvements, Milliman said, and the city would recover its $703,000 investment in the lift station through SDCs collected on 63 new homes.

Because this is a workshop being held to solicit comment from councilors, there will be no votes.

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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