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Village seeks permission to sell land



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September 07, 2011 - Oxford Village voters will have the opportunity to turn their opinions into action when they head to the polls on Tuesday, Sept. 13 and decide whether or not to give their permission to sell a small piece of publicly-owned land.

"I favor the proposal," said village Councilman Tom Benner. "I don't feel like the village needs to own lots. If we can turn that into revenue for the village, I think that would be a good thing."

The odd-shaped parcel in question is 0.431 acre in size and located on the west side of Pleasant St., across from Davison St. It's adjacent to the Polly Ann Trail and situated between Dayton and Lafayette streets.

Councilman Tony Albensi indicated that he too personally favors the proposal.

"I don't think government should be in the business of being property owners," he explained. "Of course, we need a building for our day-to-day management and we need some DPW facilities, but I don't think municipalities should just be sitting on property."

The property formerly housed the village's old Department of Public Works facilities, which were demolished in 2003. The eastern portion of the land is zoned industrial, while the western side is zoned for single-family dwellings.

Since then, there had been some discussions about possibly turning the land into a small public park, but no action was ever on taken and land has sat unused for years.

Currently, there's no buyer waiting to snatch up the property. Village officials are simply seeking the voters' permission to sell it at some point, if they so desire. There are no pending deals on the table.

"I think it's important to note that if it passes, that doesn't necessarily mean that council's going to automatically sell that piece of property," Albensi said. "If it passes, I would be more than willing to go in there with an open mind and figure out is it right for council to sell that piece of property and does it make sense to do it now when property values have obviously taken a hit over the last few years."

Albensi stressed that he's really "not in favor of municipalities just sitting on property" that could be used for "business development or residential development."

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.

Village Manager Joe Young said no formal appraisal of the property has been conducted.

"We haven't determined a value," he said. "I was using the county assessment records for vacant land in that area and it was (worth) around $18,000 based on the square-footage rate they use on properties over in that neighborhood. (That's the value) if the county assessed it. But it's an odd-shaped lot, so it's hard to say whether that's what it actually is (worth)."

Benner was asked what he would like to see happen to the land if it were sold someday. "I don't have any idea right now," he replied. "I don't think it would be a good spot for a business. But I'd definitely be interested in listening to any (potential) buyer that might come along and seeing what he would like to put on that property. I guess we'll have to wait and see if somebody approaches us."

Given it borders the Polly Ann Trail, Benner indicated that perhaps its governing body, which consists of representatives from Oxford, Addison and Orion townships along with Oxford and Leonard villages, might wish to purchase it to "put up a building there" or use it to help "promote the trail."

Young indicated the land could perhaps be used as a parking lot for the trail.

Because the land is owned by the village, it is exempt from all property taxes.

That would change if the property was someday purchased by a private owner.

However, if another governmental entity purchased the land, it would remain exempt from taxation.

"I'd like to see the village not own as much property and we could use the tax revenue, especially right now," Benner said.

Young noted there were some people looking at possibly buying the old grain elevator located near the intersection of Pleasant and Dayton streets and putting a business in the vacant building.

"(The village-owned parcel) could be parking for them," 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.
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