Manhattan city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the Aggieville redevelopment plan, which includes adding a parking garage, and improvements to Triangle Park, streets, sidewalks, alleys and landscape.
“It seems to me we have to invest in ourselves, and that’s what we’re doing with Aggieville,” said commissioner Linda Morse.
Jared Wasinger, assistant to the city manager, and Jared Hilgers, deputy city manager, presented the details of the plan. They estimated the total project will cost $23 million to $30 million.
The plan proposes the construction of the parking garage at the corner of North Manhattan Avenue and Laramie Street. Wasinger said the city does not anticipate moving or relocating any established businesses.
Some residents expressed concerns during the public hearing portion of the meeting about the parking garage’s close proximity to Aggieville buildings, such as Bill Varney of Varney’s Incorporated and Manhattan resident Joe Gritton.
“In doing that, you would find that the cars that are parked next to the Rally House wall are within two and a half feet of that wall,” Varney said.
His family started the former Varney’s bookstore in 1890, later transferring full ownership to the Levin family in 1992. The store operated in the current location of Rally House from 1998 to 2016, when it closed after 126 years in business.
Varney wondered about the size of the garage and how it could potentially affect Aggieville visitors’ points of view.
“But what sort of an impression do you get if you wanted to have customers come and go through a big, imposing (building)? ... And that’s what you’re going to have,” Varney said.
Scott Sieben, who owns Kite’s Bar and Grill in Aggieville as well as Mr. K’s and Mr. K’s Mobile Kitchen, and Dennis Cook, executive director of the Aggieville Business Association, spoke in favor of the plan.
“These are the kind of things that we need to develop,” Cook said. “We need to do this, and we have a district that has been ignored for a lot of years. And it’s kinda time to be spruced up.”
The commission also decided to pull two items, the 2020 budget and 2020 city employee salaries, from the consent agenda to the general agenda to discuss during the meeting.
Commissioner Wynn Butler urged the commission to lower the 2020 budget further, and expressed interest in lowering it to zero. The commission previously approved the budget 3-2 on Aug. 6. Butler and McKee voted against the measure at that time.
The budget the city approved earlier this month is a 1.5% increase in property taxes from 2019. The 2020 property tax rate is at 49.76 mills, which is a .41 increase form 2019’s 49.36 rate. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.
Based on a 0.7% increase in the average value of a home in Manhattan, a .41-mill increase means a homeowner paying $567.58 in city taxes for a home worth $100,000 in 2019 would pay $576.24 in taxes for a home worth $100,700 in 2020.
Morse, who supported the increase, said she did not want the community to stagnate.
“This is ever so slight. This is not a giant leap by any means,” Morse said.
Ultimately, the commission voted 3-2 to adopt the budget. Butler and McKee voted no again.
The commission voted 4-1 on 2020 city employee salaries, with Butler voting against the measure. For 2020, the commission chose to make a 1.6% wage adjustment, or cost-of-living increase. With the approved 2020 budget, the city has enough funds to initate that adjustment, according to Tammy Galvan, director of human resources for the city.