Batavia may buy ex-alderman's building for twice what it's worth
Batavia aldermen are considering paying more than double what a building is worth in order to raze it to make way for the proposed $40 million One North Washington Place development.
But a few disagree with the price tag and the timing of the purchase. Especially since the seller is a former longtime alderman, Eldon Frydendall.
Monday, the council will take a binding vote on buying 121 E. Wilson St., a 96-year-old two-story building on a 2,124-square-foot lot, for $195,000. The city would also pay Frydendall's closing and attorney costs, plus $5,000 for moving expenses. His business, Batavia Insurance, would get to remain in the building, rent-free, until February.
Ten "yes" votes are needed.
Aldermen Marty Callahan was one of three "no" votes at a committee meeting Tuesday. Two aldermen were absent.
The contract must be approved by Aug. 17, or it becomes invalid.
Callahan doesn't like the price. The parcel has a fair cash value of $83,468, according to its most recent property tax bill. It is only worth more if a redevelopment project is approved, Callahan said.
Callahan said the public will perceive the council is doing Frydendall a favor by paying so much more.
Alderman Susan Stark said she initially worried about that.
"We're asking him to sell something he didn't want to sell, and because of that, we end up paying a premium," she said.
Frydendall could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The city's economic development consultant, Chris Aiston, said the property would be required for any redevelopment of the block.
A design for One North Washington Place has not been presented to the plan commission. A preliminary document calls for building apartments, shops and a parking garage at Washington and Wilson streets.
It is tied to creating a new tax-increment financing district for the site, and reaching an agreement with the developer, Shodeen. The council will review that agreement Tuesday.
The developer is asking for the city to give it the land and knock down the buildings, and to pay for the parking garage. The city would borrow money initially for the parking garage, to be repaid through property taxes off the rest of the development.
Three residents spoke against the purchase.
"It looks like you have a gun held to your head, like you have to do this right now. Shodeen is not the only one (developer) out there. You do not have to buy it right now," said resident Chris Callahan.
City officials have said there has been little interest in redeveloping the block. Most of it is owned by the city, including the former First Baptist Church, an empty commercial building, a parking deck and a surface lot.