Zero interest for vacant city-owned lot

Local News

Last month’s bid of $1,000 for a vacant city-owned lot at 435 First Avenue Northwest wasn’t enough.

So, the Winnebago City Council sought new bids with a minimum asking price of $4,000 to be considered at their March 13 meeting.

There were no takers —- zero interest.

Councilman Scott Robertson wasn’t happy and thinks the council should have sold the property when they had the chance.

“I’ve had four weeks to stew about this. It bothers me to no end,” says Robertson. “I’d like to see progress. It’s high time we make this happen.”

Robertson says someone is interested in putting a house on the lot and that means the property would be back on the tax rolls.

But, council member Jean Anderson says selling the lot for too low of a price would set a bad precedent.

“If we get $1,000 for a desirable lot, what will we get for ones that aren’t?” she says.

Anderson believes the city should wait for a higher price because she has heard property values are expected to increase at least 10 percent.

Two years ago, Anderson purchased the lot for $4,200, however, the sale was voided for violation of the state’s conflict of interest law

Thinking outside of the box, Councilman Rick Johnson offered a possible solution of setting up a “rebate program” policy for persons buying vacant city-owned property.

“If you build and actually get the lot back on the tax rolls, you’d get back all the money you paid for it,” he says.

Johnson didn’t know if his plan is legal and City Attorney David Frundt wasn’t sure either.

Frundt says he will do some research and report back to the council at their April meeting.

On another matter, council members are in no hurry to sell the city-owned duplexes after rejecting a $150,000 offer from Realtor Jim Ness.

The city owes about $189,000 on the duplexes that have an assessed value of $280,000. Also, about $40,000 in reserves have been accumulated from rental of the units.

Council members discussed having the duplexes listed for sale and asked City Administrator Chris Ziegler to contact some real estate firms.

“It would give higher exposure,” says Anderson. “It’s the community’s money and we have to make sure we do what is right.”

Robertson questions whether the city should even be in the housing business.

“I’d like to see them go into the private sector,” he says. “I don’t want to sell anything for less than they’re worth or what we owe. We shouldn’t have a fire sale.”

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