CARBONDALE — The City Council discussed ideas on Tuesday surrounding city-owned property, the process in which it sells public property and the idea of bringing on an exclusive broker to list city property throughout the country.
The discussion started with Bleyer Field, which the city purchased in July 2016 from GELCO property management. The city purchased the 10.6 acre lot for $250,000. On Tuesday, the council discussed a concept for the property that included several single-family home sites. The idea was to seek input from council members for desired development so city staff could market the property, City Manager Gary Williams said.
The concern for additional housing was brought up by the council. Councilman Adam Loos said he would like to the surrounding neighborhood to weigh in on the process of what to do with the property.
“We are not asking for approval on this. This is just an idea,” Mayor Mike Henry said. “We are not going to develop this, some private developer (will).”
Williams said a developer could come in and purchase all of the lots, or half of the lots. A deal could be negotiated many ways.
“We were more focused on design and getting a feel for what everybody would like,” he said.
Councilwoman Jessica Bradshaw said she was concerned with the amount of homes for sale in the city already, adding that it doesn’t need any more rental property.
“I’d hate to see it get developed and then not sell,” she said.
Loos said it seems that the demand is not there at the moment.
“It’s good to get a plan together and have it on the shelf, but I would hate to see us put any kind of money into infrastructure until we are ready to roll on it,” he said. “Personally, I’d rather see that lower part (the track) be developed into a park.”
Walnut Street Baptist Church
The city purchased the Walnut Street Baptist Church, just behind City Hall, in January 2016 for $220,000. Since then, the city has been in contact with several groups expressing interest in the property, but Williams said Tuesday no entity has stepped forward with a feasible plan.
Councilman Tom Grant said there are several parts throughout the building that are valuable, which could be a way to offset the cost if the city decides to remove it.
Loos said he would be completely against knocking it down because it plays a role in the city, as a landmark in the city’s downtown. Simply turning the space into additional parking would be something he would oppose.
He said it could be used as an incubator, noting the city shouldn’t run it, but that is the type of use it could benefit from. He said many times new businesses need older buildings because they don’t have the capital for new construction right away.
Councilman Jeff Doherty said it would be best to sell the property as soon as the city could to get it back on the tax rolls and in the hands of a private developer.
When the city approved the sale of the old Carbondale firehouse at 300 S. Oakland, there was an uproar from residents about the process the city uses to sell property. There were also talks about the city not being transparent enough about proposals in the city’s possessions, or if the city is publicizing whether or not a property is for sale.
Loos said it could be a good idea to hold a public meeting when the city has property it is attempting to sell, and see if the public has any good ideas about what to do with it.
“I would like to have an option for that, in addition to what we got,” he said. “For us to think about what can we do to go beyond what is required of the law, and really make the effort to make sure people know what we are doing.”
Doherty said the current code provides enough flexibility for the city to sell property. He said he agrees with Loos that there could be an accepted marketing approach of the properties available.
“Create more of an outreach to the public that these properties are available,” he said.
Doherty did say he is very comfortable with the current code and doesn’t want to see any changes in that. But, more information could be made available to the public.
Henry said signage on the property will help a lot, just so people know a property is for sale.
Hiring a broker
The final discussion from the council about selling property came in the form of hiring an exclusive real estate broker to list the city’s available properties on multiple listing services.
The city had a letter of interest from Mark Krones of Century 21 House of Reality.
During discussion, Councilman Navreet Kang said he didn’t think it was a good idea for the city to be involved in an exclusive contract with a broker, adding the city has an economic development office for that reason.
Henry said having a commercial broker is the way to get the city’s properties listed nationwide.
Councilwoman Carolin Harvey suggested listing the properties in a nationwide magazine and website where the city lists its open positions, like the police chief and city manager, when doing a national search.
She suggested doing the search for six months to a year and then switching gears if the group isn’t happy with the results.
This ended up being the consensus of the council as it decided to direct city staff to bring back legislation to list the properties for six months — with the option to reevaluate after that time frame.