Democracy on the Front Lines
City Administrator’s Blog
January 16, 2009
I have mentioned several times about the City’s budget shortfalls and how development has declined over the past three years. However, the news is not all bad. While development has declined, O’Fallon is holding its own relative to other cities in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
This was the message of City Planner Ted Shekell, who made a presentation this at the O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. Below are the highlights from the presentation:
121 new homes were built in O’Fallon in 2008, which follows a declining trend with 203 new homes in 2007 and 304 in 2006. However, compared to other cities in the St. Louis area we retained our ranking as the fifth fastest growing city in the metro and the fastest growing in the Metro East. The cities ahead of us are (in order): O’Fallon, MO (380 new homes), St. Charles (306), Wentzville (287), and St. Peters (153). Among Illinois cities, Belleville (78) was sixth, followed by Maryville (75), Swansea (69), Mascoutah (51), and Fairview Heights (38).
Growth by itself is not necessarily a good thing, but what the numbers indicate is that even in a poor economy O’Fallon is an attractive place to live for the same reasons as when the economy is good: good schools, safe neighborhoods, beautiful parks, nice homes, and convenient access to Scott AFB and St. Louis. It is a priority of the Mayor and City Council that this high quality of life is maintained in good economies and bad.
Despite media reports that home values are declining, it may surprise you to know that the latest local report on home sales shows that home sale prices in St. Clair County actually increased 2.2% in 2008. In fact, St. Clair County was one of only three counties in the metro area with an increase in home sale prices (Madison County and Clinton County are the other two). While volume was down, sale prices remained strong.
In this respect, the national averages do not relate to our local situation. A large number of the home price declines are from the east and west coast of the country; Midwestern cities like O’Fallon were not the focus of much of the land speculation that imploded the mortgage industry. In addition, the presence of Scott AFB has a stabilizing effect on the local economy with steady employment and numerous relocations of military personnel.
On the commercial side, new construction permits are down but remodels are up, so investment is being made in O’Fallon. The most significant commercial construction investments were public buildings: Carriel Middle School, Milburn 9th Grade Center, and the Regency Conference Center. We do not expect much commercial development in 2009, but we are making plans for when the economy recovers.