Vote postponed on land buy for Batavia project

  • The city of Batavia has postponed the vote Monday on whether to buy this building, at 121 E. Wilson St., to make way for the One North Washington Place development.

      The city of Batavia has postponed the vote Monday on whether to buy this building, at 121 E. Wilson St., to make way for the One North Washington Place development. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Batavia City Council has postponed a vote on whether to buy a property on East Wilson Street, to make way for the proposed One North Washington Place redevelopment project.

City Administrator Laura Newman announced Monday night that the owners of 121 E. Wilson was out of state indefinitely, and would not be able to attend the closing that was scheduled for Aug. 17. She said a new date has not been set, but that it would likely happen in September.

Alderman Alan Wolff then asked that "property acquisition" be added to topics to be discussed later in the evening during a closed session.

The two-story office building is owned by former alderman Eldon Frydendall and his wife, Jo.

Last week, the committee of the whole recommended buying the property for $195,000, by a vote of 9-3, with two aldermen absent. Ten "yes" votes are needed.

The building was constructed in 1920, according to the Batavia Township assessor. Its property tax bill lists it as having a fair cash value of $83,468. An appraisal done for the city in 2014 valued the property at $48,000, according to Newman.

The sale is unusual in that it is not an "arms-length transaction" between a willing seller and a willing buyer, both independent of control by the other.

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According to city officials, the city approached the Frydendalls with an offer, and the Frydendalls did not want to sell.

The proposed contract would pay moving expenses for the insurance agency in there, and to let it stay in the building rent-free until February.

Sylvia Keppel, a resident, urged the council to put the proposed tax-increment financing district up for discussion in an advisory referendum.

She said that if the city were to issue general-obligation bonds to borrow money to pay upfront for work in the TIF district, she would circulate petitions to force the city to have a binding referendum on that bond issue.

The proposed redevelopment agreement between the city and Shodeen Inc. will be discussed at a committee meeting Tuesday night.

It contemplates the city supplying $13 million to pay for razing buildings, and to pay the developer for building a parking deck. The bonds would be repaid with property taxes collected on the new development. If taxes weren't sufficient, the owner of One North Washington Place would be obligated to pay the difference, through a special assessment.

Shodeen proposes to build a complex of apartments, stores and a parking garage, at Washington Street and Wilson. The former First Baptist Church on the corner, which the city owns, would be razed.

"The redevelopment will accomplish many goals that will benefit the public like adding parking to the downtown, bringing additional residents into the downtown, bringing additional business and commercial activity into the downtown and exponentially increasing the tax base. These public benefits make the acquisition of the property, even at something greater than fair market value, beneficial to the City and the public," Newman said in a response to an question by email.

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