The Cherokee City Council has displayed what psychiatrists refer to as "property retentive" characteristics.
In July of last year, on a vote of three to two, the council decided to retain a vacant lot. The decision came two weeks after establishing a minimum bid of $1,000 for the lot which is now used for public parking.
The one bid submitted for the property was unopened after the council decided to retain the property. Bill Troth, Marty Zauhar and Dwight Varce voted for the city to retain the property. Doug Woods and Ron Johnson were in favor of selling.
The city had put the property up for bid in 2003, setting a minimum bid of $12,750. Robert "Ben" Jobe submitted the only bid at that time for $1,000. Jobe is the owner of Jobe's Pastime Lounge, which is next to the parking lot.
Jobe had talked about making a beer garden on the property but his bid for the property did not represent any commitment to use the lot for a specific purpose.
There were two reasons that three councilmen wanted to retain the property. One was that it provided parking, a small gravel parking area next to the paved Maple Street parking area.
A pole next to the lot prevents efficient use for parking. Only four vehicles could use it but there are rarely or never four vehicles there anyway, most people preferring the paved parking area.
The second reason is the understandable but unrealistic desire to recover a significant portion of the city's expense. The city spent about $37,000 demolishing the building on the lot and filling it in to create a vacant lot. And it wasn't even done right. The ground is constantly settling. Before a structure could be built on the lot, it would have to be excavated and refilled.
There is also a vacant lot at 312 South Sixth where the city demolished a house in 2000. The city's cost was only $4,724 but it is charging interest at the rate of 24 percent and adding mowing costs to the lien. The lien against the property is now $11,464. At that rate of interest, the city will have hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from the eventual sale of the lot, assuming that there is a stupid rich person wanting to buy it.
The only person who has expressed interest in buying the lot is Ben Wells, who is neither stupid nor rich. The lot is adjacent to his property. He is willing to pay the back taxes owed but not any of the demolition cost. He requested that the city council waive the lien against the lot.
The council decided to leave the property as is and sell to the highest bidder when the property reverts to the city through the natural course of events.
At a subsequent council meeting, it was explained that the natural course of events will not cause the property to revert to the city. Only if purchased at a tax sale will the property revert to anyone. The property cannot be sold at a tax sale unless the buyer can satisfy liens against the property.
The city needs to accept that demolition costs at these two vacant lots will never be recovered. Getting these properties on the tax rolls won't add much revenue but every bit helps. The cost of caring for these properties is not much but every bit of reduced expense helps.
The biggest reason for letting these properties go is because citizens want something that the city gains no benefit by keeping. In the case of the lot next to Jobe's the property transfer could benefit a Cherokee business, an objective the city should support.