Vacant lot purchase program to start slowly

RANTOUL — The village Vacant Lot Purchase Program will start small, with a limited number of properties.

The program involves selling village-owned vacant lots to the public.

Trustee Sam Hall told the village board last week that seven lots would be offered first on a trial
basis. If the sale of those goes well, presumably the remainder of the approximately 50 lots would be put up for sale.

The properties include 1142, 1136 and 1130 Clark Street, 1600 Eater Drive, 1311 and 1361 Fairlawn Drive and 516 N. Penfield St.

“I’m excited, and the feedback I’ve gotten from residents, everybody’s excited” about the program, Hall said.

Neighbors of the for-sale properties will get first crack at buying them and will have 30 days to express their interest. If there is no interest in a property, the sale process would be opened up to village residents as a whole.

Neighbors of the properties will be mailed village notices indicating they are eligible to buy the land.

If more than one neighbor wants to buy a lot, they will have an opportunity to divide it and buy half of it. If the neighbors don’t want to divide it, a lottery will be conducted.

Trustee Jennifer Fox said she is concerned that a buyer is required to own the property for at least five years. Otherwise, he or she would be fined $1,000 or fair market price of the land.

“I think that’s high,” Fox said. “I totally get” the idea behind the penalty, so people don’t buy the property, then re-sell it for a profit.

“But I’m concerned if somebody purchases with the intent of staying ... and then has to move, that’s a little high,” Fox said.

Hall said the village could review those matters on a case-by-case basis.

He also said some commercial lots are available that are not included in the initial phase, but if potential buyers are interested, they can contact the village.

Trustee Chad Smith asked if a buyer purchases a neighboring lot whether he or she would be
required to leave it as “one big lot, or are we going to allow them to keep them two separate lots?”

Hall said that is up to the owner.

If a lot is split, it would also be the owner’s responsibility to have the land platted.

The board is not expected to vote on the program until February.

Land bank process
Ken Turner, village grants manager/HUD administrator, asked the board to approve a contract with STR Grants, Fairfax, Va., for land bank services not to exceed $20,000. The money will be reimbursed to the village through a grant.

Land banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties into productive use.

Said Turner: “One of the purposes of the land bank is to, quote, unquote, take or receive properties that can be repurposed. The land bank wouldn’t necessarily be interested in a property in an area where there’s no development or growth that could occur.”

As an example, he cited a vacant property that is adjacent to two homes in a residential neighborhood. The land bank would have no interest in such property.

“But when it comes to an area such as a vacant commercial property ... that is easily accessible for business, the land bank would be interested in that property because it could be repurposed and perhaps sold for business,” he said.

The STR contract, which would run from Dec. 15, 2018, to April 30, 2019, would include development of a land bank data management system, initiate a stakeholder commitment, create a resource/funding development plan and finalize the structure of the potential land bank.

Turner said the Illinois Housing Development Authority has authorized $34,500 for this phase of the service agreement, part of which will reimburse the village for the phase 2 study.

Rantoul is acting as the lead community with several other communities and Champaign County expressing interest.

During a feasibility analysis project, Rantoul engaged the Vermilion County Land Bank Authority (VCLBA) and other agencies to discuss a multi-county land bank that would include municipalities in Champaign County.

STR will lead discussions with VCLBA about expansion on behalf of Rantoul. If a joint effort through VCLBA is not pursued, STR will help Rantoul form an East Central Illinois Land Bank that is based in Champaign County, with the hope that other communities and the county would also join.

Mayor Chuck Smith told the board Turner had made “a very professional presentation” at a meeting at the Regional Planning Commission with other communities involved in the land bank process.

“He represented the village of Rantoul very well,” Smith said.

Micro loans, facade grant
The board was asked to vote on recommendations from the micro loan board to approve a $10,000 loan and $10,000 facade grant to A House of Flowers by Paula, 113 E. Sangamon Ave., and a $30,000 micro loan to Justin Walton, owner of Elite Pro Lawns.

Both micro loans would be for five years at 2 percent interest.

The House of Flowers funds would be to help pay for the repair of the storefront that was damaged last summer by falling brick at a neighboring business. The Elite Pro Lawns money would be for repair to a piece of lawn equipment and to buy snow plow equipment.

Sewer, street repair
Public Works Director Greg Hazel asked the board to approve a slip-line sanitary sewer repair
project. He said about 8,897 feet of sanitary sewer mains has been identified for repair. Visu-Sewer of Missouri submitted the low bid of $248,000. A $15,000 contingency would be included in the project.

About 40 locations in town have been identified as needing the work, which involve blowing in a resin liner, which expands, into the sewer line. The liner adheres to the sewer and extends its life.

Hazel also asked the board to approve the purchase of a 4-ton Falcon asphalt recycler and hot box trailer for the street and water division for $33,915 from CMW Equipment, St. Louis.

The recycling capability will allow village workers to take millings from one project, reheat them and then use them for patching and street repairs.

“It adheres much better than cold mix,” Hazel said.

Other business
Eisenhauer also said in February he will bring before the board a recommendation for an insurance brokerage service. He said a representative, who will give a presentation, will be available to answer questions.

Eisenhauer also said the village is in the process of conducting interviews to fill the vacancy in the human resources manager’s position.

He said a date will be scheduled next month for a meeting of the heritage lake committee.

“It is our impression there will be an (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) grant coming forward this year that ... we believe Heritage Lake would make an excellent recipient for application,” Eisenhauer said.

Community members who have expressed interest in serving on that committee have been invited to serve. Anyone else interested in serving is asked to contact the village.

Public comments
Resident Debbra Sweat asked the village to consider evaluating the lighting in parts of Rantoul. She said her parents’ neighborhood is especially dark.

Sweat also asked if the board would consider making Freedom of Information Act requests public at board meetings. She said the local school boards include that information at their meetings.

“I strongly believe that this allows for accurate records and minutes and transparency,” Sweat said.
Village Clerk Mike Graham said the village has never done that, and village attorney Ken Beth said it is not required by law. Chuck Smith said the village will consider the request.

Resident Wendell Golston thanked the Public Works Department for adding additional lighting at Clark Street and Bel Aire and Briarcliff drives at Maplewood Drive.

“Even as an adult male it’s frightening on the west side of Maplewood because of the darkness,” Golston said.


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