City seeks proposals for old school property
As contractors got started removing asbestos and other hazardous materials from the old elementary school building, members of the Morris City Council started to look forward to what might happen to the property next.
On Tuesday, the council, acting as the city Economic Development Authority (EDA), authorized City Manager Blaine Hill to advertise a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the 17.75 acres of the site.
“We’re not land barons, we’re not developers in the city, so the next step is to figure out what is going to happen to that property,” said Hill.
“When we receive the information we can more forward and decide what we’re going to do from there,” concurred council member Jeff Miller. “We need to see what people have for ideas, people who are looking to build and develop the property to get it back on our tax rolls so it helps us pay our taxes to keep our city running.”
The property was valued at $352,000 and is zoned multiple family residence. It is also in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, which means developers could have access to TIF funding for part of a development project (after enough TIF money is collected to pay for the building demolition).
According to the RFP, proposals should include:• the price the developer will pay for the property they are interested in;• a statement of vision for the use of the property;• a statement of the conditions or commitment the proposer wants from the city and the EDA;• a proposed timeline for the project;• and a discussion of why the proposer believes they should be given the opportunity to redevelop the property.
Because the city is selling the property, the council will not have to automatically accept the proposal with the highest bid amount, noted Mayor Sheldon Giese.
Development proposals must be submitted to the city by June 20, 2013. Hill told the council he would meet with developers to answer questions, review the proposals, then bring the proposals to the EDA with a recommendation for how to move forward.
In a memo to the council, Hill said he did not recommend involving the public in a review of the proposals because there are measures in place to protect the city and its residents -- the building will be gone, the property has a specific zoning designation and the land has already been appraised.
“I think we’d be better off selling it as one parcel rather than in bits and pieces,” said council member Bill Storck. “If you piecemeal it, the best lots are up on top, along Columbia Avenue, it might make a difference on the price.”
During discussion on the resolution, council member Kevin Wohlers asked whether it would be advantageous for a member of the council to sit in on any developer meetings.
“The easiest way to answer that is that it’s not the way the council works,” said Hill. “The council works as a group … In a way, that’s what you pay me for, is to be able to do that for you and make recommendations back to you. I don’t know how much one individual would get out of that to and be able to bring back to the city council. That’s not the process that we typically have in place.”
Hill noted that he might bring the city’s financial consultants into the meetings to help answer specific questions about TIF.
“My intention is to really find out what they’re looking at doing and see if there are any issues that we have to work out before that proposal comes to the EDA to review,” Hill concluded. “I’ll recommend what I think as far as what you may want to do with the proposals.”
For the moment, however, the focus at the old elementary school property is on demolition.
Hazard abatement crews with Dore and Associates moved into the old elementary school building this week to start the hazardous materials removal. Once crews enter the building, no one will be allowed in because it will be a hazardous environment, said Hill.
“We are a little bit worried about people going into the building and stuff like that, but they’re going to have their crews working there 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and possibly on weekends, depending on what their schedule is,” said Hill.
Council member Brian Solvie asked if there is a way for residents to get items out of the building.
Hill said that community members are not allowed in the building. The city can’t allow anyone to go in because they would have to advertise and allow anyone the opportunity to go in the building.
When the city signed a contract with Dore and Associates, the firm took official responsibility for the building and has indicated they won’t let anyone into the building because they don’t want to have liability issues, Morris City Manager Blaine Hill said.
Contractors estimate they will be done removing hazardous materials by the middle of June. After that, they’ll start on demolition. Hill said the contractors estimated they wouldn’t be done with the project until the end of their contracted time, Sept. 30, 2013.
Dore and Associates will be using Minnesota subcontractors for everything on the project except the hazardous materials removal and major demolition work, said Hill.