March 21, 2012 - When Oxford Village voters trek to the polls in the November general election, they will be asked for permission to sell two prime pieces of municipal-owned real estate.
But before voters make their decision, village officials want some questions answered such as: 1) Are there any developers interested in purchasing the properties?; 2) What type of developments would they envision building on them?; and 3) How much would they be willing to pay for these properties?
That's why the village council last week vote 3-0 to issue a request for proposals (RFP) concerning the municipal complex located at 18-22 W. Burdick St. and the former industrial property it owns at 98 S. Glaspie St. The RFPs must be submitted to the village on or before 2 p.m. Thursday, June 30.
"I think it's an interesting concept because it would give larger developers time to look at this property, time to consider what the market value would be, time to make an offer," said village President Tom Benner.
"I think it's kind of interesting to request for proposal the development of a property that you haven't even sold yet," noted Councilman Tony Albensi.
The RFP states one of its objectives is "to provide additional information upon which the voters could make a decision to authorize the sale."
It also states that "the village's interest is to have the property developed (in such a way) that would maximize the benefits to the village."
The benefits include the sale price, the amount of money that would be invested in the development and the amount of tax revenue that could be generated. The village also wants to ensure that the development would be "compatible (with) the historic character and charm of the village" and measure its "overall value to the quality of life in the community."
Young indicated that should voters give permission to sell one or both properties, having these RFPs will help the village "move quickly while the market's (heading) in the right direction."
The current municipal complex consists of the village office, police station, council chambers, community room, township Parks and Recreation Department, Downtown Development Authority office, Oxford Chamber of Commerce office, the vacant township offices, the old fire hall and a large parking lot.
It is currently zoned RM-2 multiple family residential (low density) and consists of more than 2 acres with two buildings sitting on it.
"The Downtown Vision Plan calls for this (property) to be townhouses (in the future)," noted village Manager Joe Young.
Purchased by the village for $700,000 in March 2006, the 98 S. Glaspie St. property is a 3.42-acre former industrial site with two vacant buildings totalling approximately 20,000 square feet, plus a parking lot. It's currently zoned as R-1 low density residential and borders the village's water system and DPW facilities along with Scripter Park and Round Lake.
Benner favors selling the municipal complex property on W. Burdick St. and using the proceeds to construct a new village hall over on the 98 S. Glaspie St. property.
"We don't need to be on a prime piece of property in the downtown that could create bigger tax revenue (as a private development)," he said.
Given its close proximity to other village facilities and amenities, plus the fact that the municipality already owns the land, Benner believes 98 S. Glaspie St. "would be a good location for the village offices."
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth expressed her concern over how much such a move could cost given it involves things relocating all of the police department's dispatch equipment for the 9-1-1 system, plus moving all of the village's files.
She said she "can't imagine" the sale of the W. Burdick St. municipal complex could generate enough money "to make it worth our while to move all of that somewhere (else)."
Young indicated one of the purposes of the RFP is to determine if selling the W. Burdick St. property would generate enough money to cover the cost constructing a new village hall and moving there.
Albensi expressed his concern that soliciting these proposals and making them public could give voters a "false idea" that "if you approve this, this is what we're going to do (with the property)."
For instance, Albensi said what if a developer submits a proposal for a mixed use development consisting of retail and residential and "that word gets out to the public."
"That may influence them in their voting," he said.
If the voters give their permission and the village sells the property, "then that's not what gets put in there," they could feel like they were duped, according to Albensi.
He cited downtown's Crittenton Medical Plaza (72 S.Washington St.) as an example.
When the building was originally proposed and going through the village's approval process, both residents and officials were led to believe that it was going to house several small tenants such as Panera Bread and Cold Stone Creamery.
But ultimately that never happened. The building was sold to Crittenton Hospital and became a medical facility.
"I think there was a false perception (that) something else was going to go in there because that's what was talked about, but that's not what went in there," Albensi said.
"Although I like the idea (of the RFP), I'm not sure I would like to put the cart before the horse, so to speak," he noted.
All of council's discussion was academic because neither property can be sold without voter permission.
Voter-approval is required by the village charter in order "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 noted that even if the voters give permission for both properties, that "doesn't mean we have to sell them both."
"If we get a good offer for one and not the other, then that's something for council to consider," he said.
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.