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Village seeks permission to sell two properties

by CJ Carnacchio

October 31, 2012

To sell or not to sell?

That is the question Oxford Village voters will be asked on the Nov. 6 ballot regarding two pieces of property owned by the municipality.

The village is seeking voters' permission to sell the municipal complex located at 18-22 W. Burdick St. and the 2 acres it sits on, plus the 3.42 acres it owns at 98 S. Glaspie St. On the ballot, they're called Proposal 1 and Proposal 2, respectively.

Voter-approval is required by the village charter "to sell 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.

Just because the village is seeking the authority to sell these properties, doesn't mean they automatically will be sold or that there are already potential buyers lined up for them.

"There's been interest, but no specific proposals or anything," said village Manager Joe Young.

Even if voters give their approval, it would still be up to the village council to decide whether or not to actually put them on the market and accept or reject any offers from potential purchasers.

The 98 S. Glaspie St. property is currently zoned as R-1 single family residential, while the municipal complex property is zoned as RM-2 multiple family residential (low density).

The current municipal complex consists of a 15,000-square-foot office building, a 6,000-square-foot steel pole-barn (the old fire hall) and a large, paved parking lot.

Built in the 1960s, the village complex currently houses the village office, police station, council chambers, community room, township Parks and Recreation Department, Downtown Development Authority office, the Oxford Chamber of Commerce office and the vacant township office.

Village President Tom Benner had previously suggested selling this property to a private party so it could be placed on the tax roll and generate much-needed revenue for the cash-strapped village. Buildings and land owned by government are exempt from paying property taxes.

"The complex where we're at right now isn't really being fully utilized," he said. "I believe the taxpayers should authorize us to sell it. I don't think the existing complex has to be on a main street near the downtown."

Benner suggested using the proceeds from the sale to build a new municipal complex on the village's 98 S. Glaspie St. property, so it could be right next door to the village's Department of Public Works (DPW) and municipal water facilities.

"We're really not utilizing 98 Glaspie St. to the full extent for what we purchased it for," he said.

Benner likes the idea of consolidating the entire village government in one location. He would hope the proceeds from selling the W. Burdick St. complex would be sufficient to build a new one.

"I really don't want to go into debt for anything," he said. "I would think that we should be able to build something for what we would get from the sale. We don't need anything that huge to house the village office and police department."

"That's basically what I would prefer, but we'll see what the people want to do," Benner noted.

But not everyone on council agrees with this idea. "I'm not necessarily for (selling the W. Burdick St. property)," said Councilman Elgin Nichols. "Given the (economic) times, I don't know if it's something we need to do build a whole new complex. Is this really the time to build a building?"

Nichols understands that the current municipal office building isn't very efficient given it was built about 50 years ago.

"I know that the cost of running the existing location is quite expensive," he said. "I'm sure a new building would be much more efficient."

But again, given the difficult economic circumstances, Nichols said, "I don't really see a need to sell any of the properties that seem to be working at this time.

"Sure, it's not efficient. Does it have everything they need in terms of office space? Probably not. Can they get by with it? Yes, I think they can."

Purchased by the village in March 2006 for $700,000, the 3.42-acre former industrial site at 98 S. Glaspie St. has a 20,000-square-foot vacant building that must be either renovated and brought up to code or demolished.

Other than leasing the property to a private business for boat storage, allowing the DPW to store road salt there and setting up a makeshift skatepark, the village really hasn't utilized it or come up with any sort of plan for developing it for future public use.

Nichols indicated he favors voters granting permission to sell this piece of property.

"My initial thoughts are it's probably something we really don't need," he said. "We can probably use the money (from selling it) elsewhere. I don't see us ever really doing anything with it, at least in the near future.

"It's been sitting there for a number of years and used pretty much just for storage. I think it's something we're just kind of hanging on to because we really don't know what to do with it. The monies received from (selling) it could probably be used for other things that are a lot more beneficial to the community."

One of the main reasons the village purchased the 98 S. Glaspie St. property was because officials were worried that if another industrial user owned it, there was a possibility of the village's groundwater supply being contaminated given it's located so close to the municipality's well sites.