Mike Davis, Central Illinois Land bank director, provided an update on some of the projects he has underway in the city during the recent Hoopeston City Council meeting.
Davis said the land bank has brought four properties in the city in the last month. These included properties on East Wyman, East Penn, Front Street and South Second Avenue.
He said they purchased the properties from the Vermilion County Tax Trustee last year, but it took them a long time to line up the grant money to address them.
Davis told the council that anyone interested in purchasing the lots left behind following these demolitions should contact him.
He said the vacant lots will revert to the city of Hoopeston after a year due to the agreement the land bank signed with the city.
Davis said he isn’t interested in holding onto the vacant lots, but added that he’s not selling the lots at “rock bottom prices.”
“I’m not going to be made whole, I’m spending $10,000-$20,000 on each of these demolitions,” he said. “I’m not naive. I’m not going to get $10,000-$20,000 to make my money back for the demo. But, as a public agency, I can’t keep taking $100 or $500 over and over again.”
Beyond the major cost of demolition, Davis said the land bank is paying $800 to acquire these lots.
“At a bare minimum, I’d like to see $800 or more,” he said.
Davis said he has also signed purchase agreements for multiple properties currently on the tax trustee auction. These include: 908 W. Washington and 406 E. Thompson.
He said he hopes to have title to those properties in the next month or so.
Davis has two other properties, 520 E. Honeywell and 210 E. Washington, that are currently in the abandonment petition process.
Davis said he has spoken with city attorney David Wesner and the hope is that they will have title for these properties by the end of November.
Davis hopes to be able to package all the properties together to do a demo request for proposal (RFP) for all four of them at once.
Davis had hoped the council would have been able to vote on five properties for fast track demolition during last week’s meeting, but his request wasn’t on the meeting agenda, so the council couldn’t vote on them.
He said fast track demolition applies to a different subset of properties than the ones that are being handled through the abandonment petition process and the county tax trustee auction.
Davis said fast track demolition properties are genuinely abandoned and falling in on themselves creating a public health and safety hazard, but still have someone paying the taxes on them.
He said the only way to go in and address them is to do fast track demolition.
Davis said he has to be careful when they actually start the fast track demolition process because he only has a 120-day period to handle the demolition process, which includes: asbestos inspection, creating a demolition RFP and wait two weeks for proposals, and get the buildings knocked down.
“You really have to have all your ducks lined up in a row to get everything done, soup to nuts, in 120 days or the whole process starts all over again,” he said.
Before the process starts, Davis said he has to submit an application to the state for the historic preservation sign-off, which usually takes about four to six weeks.
He said he took photos of the five properties he wants the council to sign-off on and plans on submitting them to the state to get that process moving.
Davis asked that the council approve the five properties at the next council meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 19.
Davis added that if the owner of one of the buildings in question wanted to donate the building, he said the land bank would consider the donation, but would have to take a close look at the title associated with the property to ensure that weren’t any major liens against it.
He said one property the land bank had handled had a huge IRS lien against it.
“I do not have the ability as a land bank to wipe out $20,000 or $50,000 IRS liens,” he said. “If those pop up, I’m not touching that property with a 10-foot pole.”
Davis said if a property has some outstanding liens from the city related to maintenance and the city is willing to forgive those liens, then he would be willing to take it.
Davis the properties in question are: 624 E. McCracken, 628 E. McCracken, 317 Front, 320 Front and 322 Front.
He said they chose to focus on properties in the same vicinity in order to help improve the neighborhood surrounding these properties rather than just picking and choosing properties from different points around the city.
“It makes sense to do these in clusters,” Davis said. “Where you can really feel and see the difference on that block.”
Davis also informed the council of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Illinois and Main Street programs.
He said DCEO has a grant program that could provide funds to address commercial property in the city.
Davis said the land bank has grants to address residential property but can’t do anything about commercial property.
He asked the council to consider developing a game plan to address vacant and dilapidated commercial properties in the city in order to potential apply for a DCEO grant.
Davis said the city could partner with the land bank and Vermilion Advantage to develop a proposal to obtain these grant funds.
Davis outlined some of his frustrations with the DCEO grant programs, specifically how their grants tend to go to communities that already have plenty of resources and don’t need the grant money nearly as badly as communities with fewer resources.
Davis said he thinks DCEO should be creating grant programs that make it easier for people to access their resources.
He told the council he’d be happy to work on that proposal if they’re interested, but he pointed out that the applications are due in January and he suspects there would be a bunch of work that would need to go into putting together a good grant applications.
Davis said DCEO doesn’t want to fund demolitions just for the sake of removing a property; instead they want to have a plan in place for how to develop a property once the building is gone.
“I think it could be a good way to go after some of these real problem buildings,” he said.
Asked if any city money would be required for these funds, Davis said there is a match requirement.
After Davis finished his presentation, Alderwoman Robin Lawson expressed her appreciation to Davis and the land bank for all they have done in the community thus far.
“It’s been appreciated, all you’ve done,” she said.
Lawson said she’s heard a positive response from the community regarding the demo work.
Davis thanked her for the kind words and encouraged her and anyone else in the community that feels that way to reach out to their state legislators.
“If you like the work, tell your state senators and representatives as well,” he said.
Davis said he is reaching out to the state and telling them that they have communities like Decatur and Danville that $10 million-plus in demolition needs and the state is handing out $100,000 grants.
“That’s not going to work,” he said. “I’m pushing the state: put really money on the table so we can get work done.”
Davis said he has been in contact with State Rep. Tom Bennett and State Sen. Jason Barickman about these issues and they’ve been a great help, but he feels that legislators need to hear from their constituents that these issues matter to them.
“Now is the time to pick-up the phone because I’m asking the governor and the state for millions of dollars to support this work,” he said.