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Evergreen Village residents eager for agreement

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 3:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 10:35 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Felipe Teddy, an Evergreen Village resident, tries to start a car in his driveway on Thursday. Teddy wants to make sure the car works in case the area floods again this spring.

SYCAMORE — Although he paid about $30,000 for his mobile home 10 years ago, Felipe Teddy knows he won't get anywhere near that much when he sells it.

Teddy's family is one of about 118 still paying lot rent in Sycamore's flood-prone Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park. All of them are waiting while a purchase price is negotiated between DeKalb County officials and park owner Frank Santoro.

County officials made a $1.6 million offer to purchase the property at 955 E. State St. in late 2013, but he was not satisfied with the appraisal or the county's offer. The roughly 19-acre park is in a flood plain beside the Kishwaukee River, and has flooded repeatedly in the past six years.

"This isn't as bad as other areas of the park," said Teddy, whose home is near a small pond in the park. "I just don't know what's going to happen, though. We're looking for another place, so we're ready to move."

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 grants totaling $5.6 million from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Before the county can move forward with relocation plans for the residents, however, they must buy the property, which includes 33 acres of farmland and about 6 acres of railroad right-of-way near it.

DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said the county has to own the property before making offers to individual residents.

"If we don't own the land and started relocated residents, other people could come back into the park," Hanson said.

Santoro said the county's appraisal was lower than what the land was worth in 2007. He said he rejected both the appraisal and the county's offer because it was too low, and because officials refused to show him their appraisal.

"It kinda drove me nuts they wouldn't show it to me," Santoro said. "This is the taxpayers' money they are using to buy the property."

Santoro said he contracted with CohnReznick LLP of Chicago to get his own appraisal. He declined to disclose the final appraisal amount because he is still in negotiations with the county.

"I don't know how long it will be for the next step," Santoro said.

Hanson said the county has received a counter offer from Santoro. He declined to disclose the amount of the counter offer.

Time is running out for the process to move forward, Hanson said.

"The grant was for a three-year period that expires June 30, 2015. The land acquisition has to happen soon because we need time to relocate residents," Hanson said.

"The safety of the residents is the bigger issue. Every day we're not moving forward is a day of danger; we're very aware of that," Hanson said.

In the meantime, residents such as Teddy and Shirley Zierke, who live near the park entrance, are in limbo.

"I've been fortunate that I haven't had any water in my house," said Zierke, an 18-year resident of the park. "I wish they would buy us out so we can get out, though.

"I'm worried this year. I wish it would stop raining."

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