Prairie Village is expanding a program that provides financial assistance to property owners wanting to make repairs and other improvements to their homes.
The City Council on Monday approved a slate of changes to the exterior grant program, including tying eligibility to how much the property is worth and lowering the minimum required cost of a project to receive assistance.
Started in 2008, the program was designed to give homeowners in certain neighborhoods in the community financial incentive to complete repairs to their property, especially in cases where they were violating city codes because of such things as peeling paint, damaged gutters or crumbling masonry.
The grants reimburse the property owner for 20 percent of the total project cost, up to $2,500 .
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Although the city typically allocates $50,000 a year for the program, it rarely spends all of the money. During the budget year ending June 30, the city awarded 22 grants worth $35,949.
To encourage more property owners to participate, a subcommittee came up with several recommended changes, most of which the council approved.
For example, the program is no longer limited to residents in the original three designated areas of Prairie Village. Instead, it is now available to any house with an appraised value from Johnson County of $175,000 or less. City officials estimate this change would expand the number of eligible houses from 3,398 to 3,769.
The council also approved lowering the minimum eligible amount of the project from $5,000 to $2,500, which staff said would ensure more minor code violations will be fixed.
New residential construction will no longer be eligible for grants, although city staff said they didn’t believe any grants have been awarded for those types of projects.
Councilmembers said they liked the changes and hoped they would lead to more repairs being completed.
“It just seems a lot more fair to me,” said Councilman Eric Mikkelson.
Councilwoman Brooke Morehead said that some residents have expressed concern about the program but that she believed it was warranted if it helps remove more eyesores.
“It’s not just to help with the cosmetic or the curb appeal of a single house,” Morehead said. “The idea is to improve the neighborhood so it starts with one house and spreads to two to three to five. It should improve everyone on the street.”
The city currently pays for the program out of its economic development fund and has set aside enough money to cover the next three budget years.
Despite some suggested alternate funding sources, such as increasing the licensing fee for rental properties, the council on Monday chose to table those discussions until later.
In other business, the council considered a number of amendments to its ordinances for dealing with dogs, cats and other pets that have officially been labeled “dangerous” by the city, typically after attacking a human or another animal.
Some of the changes include having “dangerous” animal designations determined by a municipal court judge instead of the city council members, loosening the requirements so an animal can be labeled dangerous without having to meet all of the criteria, giving owners of dangerous animals more time to either remove the animal from Prairie Village or meet the city’s requirements for keeping it, lowering the minimum amount of liability insurance the owner of a dangerous animal must have in some cases from $500,000 to $300,000, and allowing dangerous animals that meet certain requirements to lose the “dangerous” label over time.
The changes would not involve removing or changing the city’s current ban on pit bull and associated dog breeds.
Police Chief Tim Schwartzkopf said he will work with City Attorney Catherine Logan on a final set of amendments for the council to vote on early next year.
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