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Village wants to know how much properties could fetch

November 21, 2012 - Oxford Village officials have no definitive plans to sell any properties, but if they do, they want to know how much they could expect to receive for them.

That's why council voted 4-0 at its Nov. 13 meeting to solicit request for proposals to sell the village municipal complex, located at 18, 20 and 22 W. Burdick St., and the 3.42 acres of municipal-owned property at 98 S. Glaspie St.

Councilman Tony Albensi, who made the aforementioned motion, noted that voters "overwhelmingly approved" two proposals granting the village authority to sell these public properties, so now he's "curious" to see how much money they could fetch from potential buyers. He made it clear that his motion was simply about gathering information at this point.

During the Nov. 6 election, village residents voted 921 to 675 to give their government permission to sell the municipal complex and the 2 acres it sits on. They also voted 1,069 to 521 to grant the village authority to sell 98 S. Glaspie St.

"To me, the ballot language was pretty clear," Albensi said.

Not every village resident agreed with the election's outcome. Sue Bossardet, a former village president, opposed both proposals.

She didn't like the idea of developing 98 S. Glaspie St, which is a former industrial site, because it's "so close" to the village's water supply and she didn't wish to risk possible contamination.

"If anything happens to that water supply, we are S.O.L," Bossardet told council.

As for the idea of selling the municipal complex and building a new structure to house the village offices and police department on the 98 S. Glaspie St. property – a concept that was previously suggested by village president Tom Benner – Bossardet didn't like that either.

"I just think it's a really bad idea" to move the municipal complex from the "center of our community to the outskirts," she said.

She also didn't want to lose all the free public parking that the municipal complex's spacious lot provides folks who frequent downtown businesses, particularly those in the southwest quadrant.

"This lot is full all the time," Bossardet said. "If you sell it to a private developer and he puts high end condos or something (else) in here, you're going to lose pretty much all your parking for residents."

Village Manager Joe Young noted how the downtown vision plan, created in 2007, calls for the municipal complex property to be redeveloped into townhouses and a three-story parking structure.

"That is just a concept," replied Bossardet, who noted the plan contained "no price tag" indicating how much such a parking structure would cost. "Trust me, you or the (Downtown Development Authority) don't have the money to put up a parking structure and won't for numerous years."

Bossardet expressed her concern that the new village complex would be built "at the expense" of other projects in the community "that really need to be done." She doesn't consider a new complex one of those projects.

"You guys don't need it," she said. "We don't need it. We need some of these other things taken care of."

Benner indicated the main reason he wants to sell the municipal complex and its accompanying 2 acres is to get it back on the property tax roll.

This would generate additional revenue for the village, so it can continue providing services without raising property taxes on residents, something council's been struggling to avoid "for the last four or five years," he explained.

Benner noted how during that time "other buildings" have been "bought and sold in the community and taken off the tax roll."

"That makes it more difficult," he said.

An example of this can be found in Oxford Community Schools' purchase of downtown's historic Meriam building (10 N. Washington St.) in 2010. As a government-owned property, this 9,500-square-foot, two-story building is now exempt from paying any and all property taxes.

As for the idea of moving the village complex from its current location, Benner added, "It doesn't bother me if it's not in the downtown."

He still favors the 98 S. Glaspie St. as a suitable location because it's already off the tax roll; it's located right next door to the village's Department of Public Works and water system facilities; and it would finally give that property a purpose.

The village paid $700,000 for the Glaspie property back in 2006 and really hasn't done anything with it except use it for storage purposes, both public and private, the latter of which has generated $2,500 annually in lease revenue for the village.

Benner believes proceeds from selling the municipal complex property should be able to finance construction of a new facility.

"We don't need a huge complex," he said. "I think the sale of this should offset the cost of any building that we need."

Benner made it clear he wouldn't want the new facility to be a financial burden on the village.

"I'm not in favor of going in debt for it," he said.

Councilman Elgin Nichols didn't like the idea of selling the municipal complex and building a new one. For him, it comes down to a question of "need" versus "want."

With regard to the current municipal complex on W. Burdick St., Nichols said, "We probably need it."

With regard to the idea of building a new one, he said, "We probably want it."

To Nichols, it "makes sense" for the village offices and police department to stay right where they are.

As for the Glaspie property, Nichols said the village could always sell it with a "stipulation" that it can't be used for certain purposes in order to protect the municipal water supply.

It was noted the Glaspie property is currently zoned for R-1 single family residential use.

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.
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