The City of Batavia has eight properties owned by people who didn't pay their taxes. Monday night the city council voted to move forward with getting new owners for the properties. It agreed to put six of them up for auction, sell one to Habitat for Humanity and explore redevelopment options for the other.
The properties consist of five houses, plus two parcels of land zoned residential, and one commercial property located at 13-15 Jackson St., which is in Jackson Square.
The auction would hopefully allow the city to gain back some, if not all, of the unpaid taxes.
Councilman Bill Cox questioned that if the properties were sold to cover back taxes, would that change their assessed value? City Manager Jason Molino said he would be surprised if some of the properties sold for the amount owed.
They will be sold for prices lower than the surrounding houses. But in a distressed sale, Molino said the price of a "spotted" property is typically considerated without regard to the higher values of those around it.
Three of the residential properties have tenants. And one of the properties on Ellicott Street will have to be condemned due to the "terrible" shape it's in.
Council agreed to sell one of the properties to Habitat for Humanity, which will rebuild the house so it can become the home of a low-income family. Council saw this as an opportunity to take a house in rough shape and ensure it would be fixed up for a new family.
This was done as part of the Housing Development program.
Council President Marianne Clattenberg said that by starting out with one house being redeveloped, it gives them a chance to "start slow and see how this program works."
Molino carefully chose Habitat in order to virtually guarantee decent results for the first rehab project. Other agencies can be explored another time.
"The goal is to refurbish these houses and put families in them," Clattenberg said.
Habitat is currently working on a house it bought for around $17,000. But Councilman Samuel Barone noted that it has never come up with the type of money it would need for this house-- nearly $21,000 in back taxes.
Molino said that before a sale contract is written, the nonprofit organization would be asked for a letter of commitment, promising completion of the project.
The only commercial property in arrears, 13-15 Jackson St., will take some time before a new owner can buy it.
The building has some historical background, according to Councilwoman Patti Pacino. Since it's in the Batavia Improvement District (downtown), the council would like to see it developed into something beneficial for the community.
They voted "yes" to seeking development options. The council wants to see the building used for a taxable purpose.
"It's going to take time," says Molino, who will have to gather information about what can be done with the property.
He added that his office has received interest in the building in the past.
Councilman Frank Ferrando said something needs to be done to avoid these situations. Action needs to be taken to get people and businesses to stay in the area.
"We talk about it and we don't take action," Ferrando said. "That's why these things happen. There isn't enough opportunity."
Councilman Bob Bialkowski summed the whole property situation up by saying "It's just very sad."