Evergreen Village project on hold

Property owner disputes DeKalb County’s proposed purchase price

Published: Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
Caption
(Shaw Media file photo)
The front of Evergreen Village on Jan. 9 in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – County officials are putting efforts to relocate Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park residents on hold while they negotiate a purchase price for the land plagued by flooding.

County officials made an offer to purchase the park at 955 E. State St. from owner Frank Santoro this year but he is not satisfied with the appraisal of the property. The roughly 19-acre mobile home park is home to about 130 mobile home units and sits on a flood plain next to the Kishwaukee River. It has been the site of repeated flooding during the past six years.

Officials have been trying to relocate the residents and restore the area to open space. Paul Miller, county planning, zoning and building director, said the county received $5.6 million in grants from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency for the project.

Before officials can move forward with the relocation and restoration plans, they need to buy the property, which includes a 33-acre farm field and about six acres of railroad rights of way near it.

Officials had appraised the main mobile home park site at a value lower than what it was worth in 2007, said Santoro, who has owned the park since 1978. He said he rejected both the appraisal and the county’s purchase offer because of the lower amount and because county officials refused to show him any figures, which officials dispute.

“I got kind of hot about that … it’s taxpayer money you’re trying to buy my property with, and I need to know what the figures are,” Santoro said.

Santoro said he knows the property is worth more because he pays higher property taxes for it than in the past and the rent has risen over the years to match market value of the mobile home units. Currently, the average rent is $340 a month; in 2007, the rent was about $280, he said.

Last year, the park accumulated about $467,200 in rent, which goes toward maintaining operations, he said. He said he netted about $256,000.

Miller said officials had appraised the mobile home park at its 2008 value, which was before the flooding in September of that year. Miller said Santoro received a copy of the appraisal.

“The whole point of these projects that use federal monies to buy properties that are subject to flooding is to not penalize the property owner because the property has flooded recently,” Miller said.

Miller declined to reveal the county’s proposed purchase price because it was part of an ongoing real estate negotiation.

Out of the total budget for the project, he estimated about $1.6 million would go toward buying the property. About $3 million has been estimated to relocate the residents and about $1.9 million to purchase the mobile home units.

Even with the $5.6 million secured for the project, Miller said, the project may cost about $1.5 million more, with those extra funds becoming available through IEMA, if needed. He said the county had underestimated the costs of relocation assistance in the original grant applications made to FEMA in 2011.

Santoro said he will offer his own appraisal of the property next month through CohnReznick, LLP. He said the firm started appraising the property this month.

“I just want a fair market value,” he said.

Miller said it will be up to the state to determine which appraisal is more accurate.

Until then, the relocation and restoration efforts are on hold. Miller said he knows most of the residents are still waiting to see if they want to relocate, while others are eager to move and some of them have found alternative housing.

“Unfortunately, the county can’t work with the residents until we have an agreed price with the property,” Miller said.

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