November 16, 2011 - If Tom Benner's idea gains some traction, the Oxford Village government could end up relocating to a new home.
Oxford Village President Tom Benner wants to know if village voters have any interest in selling the municipal complex on W. Burdick St. and using the money to build a new one on S. Glaspie St. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Last week, the village president suggested selling the current municipal complex on W. Burdick St. and using the proceeds to build a new facility on a piece of land the village already owns at 98 S. Glaspie St.
"I just put it out there as food for thought," Benner said. "I feel like the village owns too much property."
Selling the current municipal complex to a private party would allow the property to be taxed, thus generating more revenue for the village. Property taxes can't be levied against government-owned land and buildings.
"I don't think the complex needs to be downtown on valuable property," Benner said.
The current municipal complex consists of the village office, police station, council chambers, community room, township parks and recreation department, DDA office, the Oxford Chamber of Commerce office, the vacant township office, the old fire hall and a large parking lot.
Moving the municipal complex to 98 S. Glaspie St. makes perfect sense to Benner for a variety of reasons.
"We already own the property and we're not utilizing it to its full potential in my mind," he said. "I think this would be a good use for it."
Purchased by the village in March 2006 for $700,000, the 3.42-acre former industrial site has a 20,000-square-foot vacant building on it. Other than leasing the property to a private business for boat storage and allowing the DPW to store road salt there, the village hasn't really used it.
"We don't have a whole lot going on there," Benner said. "Boat storage is nice, but it doesn't generate big revenue."
Given the property is bordered by the village's water system and DPW facilities to the south, Benner sees this as opportunity to consolidate all aspects of the municipality and its services in a single location. "I think it would be more convenient," he said.
In order for Benner's suggestion to be implemented, village voters would have to give permission to sell the municipal complex.
Voter-approval is required by the village charter "to sell any property of value in excess of $5 per capita, according to the last preceding U.S. Census."
Based on the 2010 Census, which counted 3,436 people in the village, any property worth more than $17,180 requires a public vote.
Benner would like to see the question put before voters on the August 2012 primary ballot.
If the voters give their permission, Benner made it clear he's not interested in relocating the municipal complex until the financing is in place.
"We can't just move without having it sold," he said. "I don't want to spend money for a new complex and not have this one sold. I want to have cash in hand or know where it's coming from."
Councilman Tony Albensi stated he would like to see the 98 S. Glaspie St. property placed on the ballot as well to determine if voters favor selling it.
"I wasn't necessarily opposed to putting the village offices up for sale and moving over to 98 Glaspie," he said. "My only comment was I think maybe we should consider putting both of them up for sale."
Albensi said he's interested in getting a dialogue going between council and citizens.
"Maybe the people don't want to move (the village complex) over there. Maybe they would rather keep it where it is and sell the other place," he explained. "I'm not opposed to either one of them. I just wanted to get their input on both of them. I'm just open to all options. I've got an open mind and am willing to listen to anything."
Benner doesn't like the idea of putting 98 S. Glaspie St. on the ballot.
"We bought it purposely so there wouldn't be a factory there," he said. "I'd hate to see it become something commercial again."
One of the main reasons the village purchased the property was because officials were worried if another industrial user owned it, there was a possibility of the village's groundwater supply being contaminated.
"I know part of the concern was putting an industrial complex there as it's right next to our well system and I understand that," Albensi noted. "We don't want to do that. We don't want to do anything to hurt our great water. Maybe some sort of housing development could be put there."
The 98 S. Glaspie St. property is currently zoned as R-1 single family residential, while the municipal complex property on W. Burdick St. is zoned as M-2 multiple family residential (low density).
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.