The former Ohio National Guard Armory located at 1412 N. Main St. in Urbana could soon be sold to the highest bidder after City Council on Tuesday heard the first reading of an ordinance seeking to dispose of the 3.48-acre property.
Originally owned by the city until 1949, the property was sold that year to the state of Ohio with a reversionary clause attached that stated if the state were to ever close the armory, the property would be returned to the city.
Director of Finance Chris Boettcher said that exact scenario played out when the state handed the keys to the armory back to the city in April 2007 at no cost.
In 2008, the city and Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine collaborated on a project to update the former armory into what became known as the career center’s South Campus.
“There was a five-year initial term for them to occupy the structure, and in the contract they had two additional five-year terms,” Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said. “When the deal was put together, the anticipation was it would be a 15-year operation, which would then allow things to really progress and kind of payoff by getting the value back for all the improvements.
“Unfortunately, as Ohio Hi-Point came into the final year of their contract, some of the funding that changed for the city also changed for education, so they were not able to monetarily support another location down here. They left at the end of the school year in 2014,” he added.
Since July 1, 2014, the city has marketed the property and had regular showings of the building to manufacturing, logistic and warehousing firms, as well as startups and nonprofit companies, Brugger said.
“We’ve had a lot of people kicking the tires wanting to try to figure out if they could make the property beneficial,” he said.
With no deal currently in sight, administration has decided to move forward with obtaining council’s permission to put the property up for public sale.
One reason for moving forward with the sale, administration stated, is because of the monthly costs associated with owning the property.
“Depending on the season, the costs (electric, water, sewer, natural gas, telephone) range from $600 to $1,400 per month,” Boettcher said.
The ordinance, which is expected to be put to a vote at the Sept. 13 council meeting, states, “a broker’s opinion of value, completed in November 2014, established a potential sale price range of $450,000 to $475,000 on the open market.”
As for the money the city has put into the facility, Boettcher said, “The current estimated cost to defease and satisfy the bonds, refund grant proceeds used for the renovation, and associated closing costs equals approximately $390,000.”
To satisfy the outstanding financial obligations the city has on the property, the ordinance calls for the minimum bid to be set at $390,000.
County responds to city’s support of land bank
On June 21, council passed a resolution of support for the creation of a county land bank if Champaign County officials were to one day decide to pursue what Community Development Manager Doug Crabill referred to as a “quasi governmental entity” established by state lawmakers in response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis that struck the nation several years ago.
Typically funded through a county’s DTAC (Delinquent Tax & Assessment Collection) Fund, Crabill said a land bank could help secure demolition funds and give the county another tool to turn unproductive property around.
On Tuesday, council was informed via a letter from the Champaign County Board of Commissioners that at the present time, the board “does not believe that the costs involved establishing and maintaining the land bank would equal the benefit that would be received.”
The letter also states, “The Board of Commissioners has determined that even though there are a number of nuisance properties identified throughout the county, only a very few of those properties would even currently qualify for the land bank.”
In response to the letter, Crabill suggested council discuss the issue next time it meets with the commissioners.
In other business:
•An ordinance to amend the signage section of the Urbana Corridor Development Standards (UCDS) passed on a third and final reading.
Under the old UCDS, businesses in the Urbana Corridor Overlay District were allowed 1 square foot of signage for every 1 lineal foot of occupied frontage, but following the passage of the amendment, businesses are now allowed 2 square feet of signage per lineal foot of frontage.
The ordinance also eliminated language in the UCDS that limited or capped businesses in the Urbana Corridor Overlay District to a total of 100 square feet (150 square feet for large-format retail establishments) of signage.
•Mayor Bill Bean swore in Chris Snyder as the newest sergeant with the Urbana Police Division. Bean also swore in firefighter/paramedic Joseph Hester as a new member of the Urbana Fire Division.
•Council approved increasing a purchase order to Alloway by $15,000 for lab testing for the Water Reclamation Facility. The original blanket purchase order in the amount of $18,000 was approved on Jan. 5.
•A ceremonial resolution in support of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s designation of bicycle routes within the city was passed on first reading by council.
The resolution states ODOT has designated a series of corridors crossing Ohio to be developed as various U.S. and state bicycle routes.
Crabill said while no U.S. bicycle routes pass through the city, two proposed state routes do in State Bicycle Route 36 (runs parallel to U.S. Route 36) and State Bicycle Route 23 (passes through county via the Simon Kenton Trail).
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.