Needhams offer to kickstart housing stock in Valley Falls
by Clarke Davis
The Valley Falls City Council was visited by local residents Les and Julia Needham last Wednesday night, who told officials they were interested in building houses in the Barnes Addition.
They expressed interest in five lots starting at 19th and Frazier streets and running north along the east side of Frazier. The couple would build one with plans of starting another as soon as the first one neared completion.
Julie Needham said the fifth house would be theirs and they would move to town.
Mayor Charles Stutesman told the council that he had been approached earlier by Julia Needham and now it was time for the council to take up the matter.
The city has been given the land for the express purpose of developing it for residential housing, but it is undeveloped. Part of it is served by a water line but there are no sewer lines or interior streets.
The land is now being farmed and has just been planted to alfalfa.
The mayor reminded the council that while there had never been anything official, this and the former administration had discussed various ideas about promotion that included giving lots away to those who promised to build.
Jim Martin of Professional Engineering Consultants, Topeka, was present and was handed the job of assisting the city with a plan for bringing utility services to the area.
The Needhams said they were not asking for free land and would be willing to pay something. Julia Needham said the area should come with a covenant that would hold housing to a fairly high standard.
The mayor told the council that he had been approached recently by another party showing interest in building in that subdivision, but he would not release the name.
Les Needham is a former banker and is experienced with building housing developments, having built housing in Hutchinson and Wichita.
He later told the paper that they would like to begin building the first house next spring.
“We’d take it slow and easy,” he said, noting the economy, interest rates and other factors play into their decisions. Along with the five lots they discussed with the council, they would like to have an option on half a dozen more for future planning.
He said they want to build nice homes but the size and price has to be common to the area and not priced beyond the means of working people.
Needham moved to rural Valley Falls in 1994, but he was no stranger to the town. His father was the late Harry L. Needham, a former mayor and John Deere dealer in the city. He had the dealership from 1938 until well into the 1950s.
Les’s mother, Helen, died when he was an infant and he was raised by family in another community. However, he kept ties here to his father and half-sisters, Judy and Karen.
The Needhams expressed their interest in the land to the council and left to await word.
“Valley needs to start growing,” Les Needham said as he and his wife left the council.
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