Archive for Friday, November 5, 2010

City council discusses unsafe structure, speed limits near elementary schools

This building at the corner of Sixth and High streets was deemed unsafe by the Baldwin City Council in June. Now, a group of local investors want to fix the building.

This building at the corner of Sixth and High streets was deemed unsafe by the Baldwin City Council in June. Now, a group of local investors want to fix the building.

November 5, 2010

The Baldwin City Council on Monday tabled a decision on the property at 600 High Street, which was declared an unsafe structure at a June meeting.

There was a motion for the city to pay $53,000 to demolish the two-story brick building. The motion received a second, but before the council voted, Mayor Ken Wagner let Baldwin City resident Alan Wright speak about possibly buying the building.

Wright was representing a group of four city investors who made a proposal to restore the building and sell it for commercial use and possibly have apartments upstairs. They would like to see the building fixed instead of demolished.

The investment group asked the city council for a $25,000 grant and to cover the back taxes of $17,000. The city now has the choice to pay $53,000 to demolish the building or invest significantly less money to see it fixed up and possibly sold.

The topic should come up at the next city council meeting on Nov. 15.

On Monday, the council approved an ordinance about to establish 20 mph speed limits on Bullpup Drive and Elm Street, which are the streets that run between Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center and Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center. The ordinance also incorporates the Public Health and Safety Committee’s recommendation of no parking on the west side of Bullpup Drive and either side of Elm Street.

The ordinance was approved for a second reading. The council will vote to approve the ordinance at the Nov. 15 meeting.

Comments

Stacy Napier 3 years, 11 months ago

Hey I want some money from the city to fix my house so I can sell it.

Tear it down, put a lean on it so the city can recoup the money. The 53K bill goes to the owners. Wright is asking for a 25K handout that won't have to be repaid. Big difference there.

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robinbayer 3 years, 11 months ago

notwhatyouthink,

I know the City staff and the members of the Council wish it were that cut and dried. The current owner of the property is nearly 5 years in arrears on property taxes. Placing a lien of the cost of the demolition ($53,000 plus probably $2,000 for asbestos abatement) onto the property that already has a tax lien of $17,000 will likely not have any beneficial effect. An empty lot downtown will then have a huge lien on it which the current property owner will not be any more motivated to pay than the existing property taxes. If the taxes remain unsatisfied on the property then the land will eventually be sold at auction. Whatever the proceeds would be from such a sale would be used to satisfy the outstanding taxes. If the land only sold for $30,000 (which is probably an extremely optimistic figure), the remainder of the taxes would then be dismissed. The City would then be out a large chunk of the $53,000 because the $17,000 back taxes would be paid out of the proceeds first. The empty lot would then be put back on the tax rolls at the valuation of the empty lot (let's say $30,000 for sake of argument).

Now contrast that with a plan by a private group that would look to immediately stabilize the building and in a reasonable amount of time fix it up so that it would host tenants. The building would then be returned to the tax rolls at a much, much higher valuation (let's again for sake of argument assume $300,000). The taxes on such a valuation would return the $25,000 grant from the City within a 10 year period. Additional monies would be recouped by the City from building permit fees and utility hookup charges for the new property.

Unfortunately the current owner of the property has done the City a tremendous disservice by allowing the building to fall into such disrepair at the same time as electing not to pay property taxes. The group of investors has come forward with a plan to try to mitigate the cost to the City. There are still issues to be worked out before such a grant would be offered but this very well might be an avenue to save the City a considerable sum of money.

Robin Bayer 913-645-6666

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 11 months ago

Another option Robin is stop letting pointless fears of a falling building guide your path and foreclose on the property for back taxes. Then if no one buys it at tax sale the City can take it back sell it as is for the $17k+ they have invested in it.

I'm sure someone will step up and buy the property for the back taxes and then they can determine given current building and zoning laws what to do with it. Oh, and the City has recouped all it's money and is out nothing!!

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straightforward 3 years, 11 months ago

It's not as if the $25k he's asking for will cover the entire rehab. He and the other investors will have to put a lot of their own money into something that may or may not be profitable in the long run. I don't see anyone else stepping up with any good ideas so we should feel lucky that people in our community are willing to take a financial risk that will also get rid of a major eyesore.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 11 months ago

I respect Alan Wright and am glad to see him involved. I'm a little concerned about the "other investors" and would like to see who they are. Robin Bayer is a lackey of devolpers, etc., and that concerns me, too. This is a bad situation for the city, but I'm leary of putting out any money without knowing what will happen. Can that building really be saved? Is it really worth it? Tough one.

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kermit 3 years, 11 months ago

Amen to that straightforward. It astonishes me the lack of foresight in many in this community. Let's put it in simple terms--I guess notwhatyouthink would rather see an empty lot sitting there for the next 20 plus years (because in reality who on earth would buy that piece of ground )and have the taxpayers be out $72,000 and have nothing to show for it than give an incentive for a private investor to come in fix an historic old building up, create a function business, create a few jobs and bring activity to downtown. Come on folks, the taxpayer is going to be out regardless so why not minimize the damage and accept a great offer when it's presented?

It sounds to me either notwhat is either painfully ignorant or is suffering under typical class envy thinking where he is ticked off someone else can afford to make this offer (i.e. has enough bucks laying around to dabble in investments). Notwhat is probably thinking, "why should we give them a break? They are rich, they can afford it". Standard class-envy thinking and exactly the kind of thinking that is stifling our economy right now.

I think it's great that there are some in this community who are willing to put up some of their hard earned money to invest in our downtown and try to keep this building from being razed. More power to you and please don't listen to these jealous boobs who claim they are "looking out for taxpayer money" but are in reality extremely short sighted and have not one entrepreneurial bone in their bodies.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 11 months ago

"Jealous boobs?" Nice Kermit. You have to be kidding on many levels. This smells. You are a part of the city government which makes me wonder about this even more.

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kermit 3 years, 11 months ago

Sorry true_bulldog I am not part of city government. Never have been. However I do know a couple of the people who are trying to put this deal together and I think it crazy to not at least take a serious look at their offer. Frankly that building is an eye sore. I'd rather see someone take an interest in it, fix it up rather than have my taxpayer money going to tear it down and then we all be stuck with the liability left on the tax roles because no one with a lick of sense will buy that empty lot with that kind of tax liability attached to it.

FYI-- Take your mind of out the gutter. From Dictionary.com "boob" = noun, a stupid person;fool;dunce.

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Stacy Napier 3 years, 11 months ago

The only stupid one is someone who would invest thousands of dollars for a building that is downtown when you can't get any good business to move in.

We have business space in this town that has remained vacant since it was built several years ago and more is being built as we type.

How about this, you hold the owner accountable for his actions/ property. You made it a crime to have a dangerous building. Send him to court and punish him. If we can't uphold the laws we have made than what good are they.

Also if the taxes haven't been paid for three years it should be close to being sold by the sheriff. Why not let that play out and see who buys it.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 11 months ago

First of all, Kermit, I agree that the building is an eyesore. I am also pleased to see there are people interested in fixing it. I just want to know who they are before handing out dollars. If it's going to take a lot more money than they're asking for, why not just do it all and not take a taxpayer handout?

Personally, I don't see where fixing this building up is going to work. If it doesn't, we've put money into it just to see us have to tear it down anyway. When push comes to shove, we're stuck with this situation because the council got in such a hurry to deam it an unsafe structure and now we have to deal with it. The building hasn't fallen down for 100 years, but now we've come up with the liability because we've deemed it unsafe. Oh, well.

FYI -- My mind is not in the gutter. I was actually bothered more by jealous than boobs, but the combination was just odd. Jealous of what? How does this play into it? It was just uncalled for in this discussion -- in my opinion.

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ksrush 3 years, 11 months ago

Wasn't this the building that was denied a building permit for the same thing a year or so ago at no taxpayer expense ?

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1776attorney 3 years, 11 months ago

This is a very historic building in the downtown area of Baldwin City. It is located on a corner that would really suffer should it end up an empty lot full of weeds for the next 10 years. And it would be a tragic loss of a piece of local history.

That godforsaken cell phone tower is enough of an eyesore (and possible health risk) in the middle of downtown. Let's not add to the degradation of that area of downtown which for many visitors is the first part of the city they see driving west on High Street.

If the proposal benefits the community financially and aesthetically, then I say this should be explored.

Here are a few of the suggestions I would insist on in any proposal or negotiation-

1) The investors are made public. Transparency is required. I haven't heard any suggestion so far that anonymity was requested.

2) I would prohibit any zoning for residential (apartments) in the renovated building or downtown in general. It should be limited to commercial, retail or office space. In my opinion and experience, apartments in these kind of downtown buildings only bring problems. Serious commercial tenants do not want noisy, unkept rental tenants living above them. Our downtown should focus on being more commercial. Keep the residential in the proper neighborhoods.

(There are currently several buildings in the downtown with 2nd floor tenants living in buildings never intended for rentals. Nor are they approved or designed for fire safety. The old Gem Theatre comes to mind where there is no fire escape in a block of buildings with very old fire prevention construction. The Gem is a tinderbox.)

3) If taxpayer money is involved, and I am not against this idea, the community should insist that the building be renovated and restored to historical specifications and appearance. The building should be returned to it's original architecture and design. In fact, taxpayer money may be a good method for insuring that the building is restored properly.

Historical restoration is expensive. This may require more effort from the investor group.

Handle this properly from beginning and the result is a great asset for the community; handle it poorly and the community ends up with another eyesore and continuing problems for many years.

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ksrush 3 years, 11 months ago

You have many good points but the real problem is the City lacks the capacity and or character to do this right and above board. This is a smaller version of our power plant debacle and who gets stuck with the bill. Evidently not the investors

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Torch 3 years, 11 months ago

Wright went about this all wrong. He just needs to know how to phrase things here in Baldwin. Here's the excerpt from the article:

"Wright was representing a group of four city investors who made a proposal to restore the building and sell it for commercial use and possibly have apartments upstairs."

Now...here's how he should have done it:

"Wright was representing a group of four city investors who made a proposal to restore the building and sell it for commercial use and possibly have apartments upstairs. 'Basically, this is for the kids,' Wright said.

There you go...instant approval!

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 11 months ago

The only question I have is how will the original owner feels about this since in the article it makes no mention on if he has agreed to sell it to these investors or if the city has foreclosed on it for back taxes??

Sorry, but given the lack of real information in this article I would decline the offer from Wright's group.

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jgillispie 3 years, 11 months ago

Here are some facts that were left out of the story. The owner John Rose (not sure on spelling) has signed an agreement or contract with the group of investors. The investors are Alan Wright, Dave Hill, Bill Harmon and Rick Deitz. Sorry this information was left out of the story.

Jimmy Gillispie

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the info!!

Do we know how much they are buying the building for??

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kermit 3 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Jimmy for filling in the missing pieces. Now the conspiracy theorists out there have the transparency they are so worried about. No deep dark motives here. Just some extremely community minded citizens who want to help out but aren't willing to take a financial bath to do so. The real culprit here is the owner who hasn't maintained his building nor paid his taxes.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 11 months ago

I also thank Jimmy for adding in the missing names. Kermit, much like your "jealous boobs" comment, there wasn't any conspiracy theory going on here. I knew at one time Dave Hill was involved with trying to buy the building. I just wanted to know who was involved. I don't find that to be a conspiracy.

That said, I think it's all throwing good money after bad. You call it an eyesore and I agree. Tear it down and be done with it. The current owner can be charged for that, too, although just like his taxes, he'll never pay. Face it, we're stuck. Office space downtown with apartments above? Please.

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solo 3 years, 11 months ago

I hear that the investor group may already have a couple of prospects for commercial tenents. If that is the case do you still feel the same way about this true_bulldog? I guess I don't see why you want to just tear it down if there are folks out there who are honestly trying to make it work. Please explain.

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true_bulldog 3 years, 11 months ago

Would you like to share who the prospects are, solo? I'd be more than happy to hear that. Sure, I'd like to see the building saved. I just don't see it happening. Is Heritage Tractor going to have a downtown office? Mid-America Bank going to do the same? How about A&H Air Conditioning or whatever? Dr. Deitz opening an ER? If so, I'll believe. If not, not so much. Remember our economy? Just a thought.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 11 months ago

I too have heard that certain individuals are interested in moving downtown to that location if the price is right.

Either way, I'm not sure why the city just doesn't move forward with fine penalties and a tax sale on the property. Then the interested investors can then instead of paying the current dead beat owner anything simply buy the property at tax sale.

The only reason this issue is being rushed in such a manner is because certain people have a fear that the building is going to collapse at any time injuring others. This once again is NOT the cities issue, the City has put up signs and safety fence warning of the POSSIBLE danger. This is the issue of the current owner, whom if doesn't repair the property and it does collapse hurting others could be found criminally liable and perhaps not only will be looking at financially ruin but criminal charges as well.

I say move forward on the tax sale.

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