SYCAMORE – If they are to move from Sycamore's Evergreen Park Mobile Home Park, residents will have make their own arrangements.
DeKalb County Board Chairman Jeffery Metzger read a letter at Wednesday's board meeting from Administrator Gary Hanson and Planning Director Paul Miller stating they have been unable to reach a purchase agreement with Frank Santoro, who owns the Evergreen Village property, just outside Sycamore.
The letter detailed the steps county staff has taken, starting with the receipt of a three-year, $7.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] in June 2012 to purchase the property and relocate the residents out of the floodplain. Since then, the county has followed the many federal and state requirements for the project, culminating with an offer of $1.47 million for the property in October.
Park owner Frank Santoro rejected the offer in November, seeking his own appraisal from CohnReznick LLP. Available in February, that appraisal valued the park at $2.6 million.
On March 5, county staff met with Santoro and his attorney to reiterate the original purchase offer of $1.47 million, requesting a response from Santoro by March 18. The letter said the state rejected Santoro's appraisal.
As of Wednesday, Santoro had not accepted the county's offer. Calls today from Daily Chronicle staff to Santoro's home were not returned.
"We don't have any options left," Hanson said. "This is a huge blow for the residents who need to be relocated."
Hanson said residents were waiting for the relocation assistance the grant offered.
"We bent over backwards to see this project through," said board member Anthony Cvek, R-Sycamore. "The residents there are being held hostage by an owner who just wants to line his own pockets."
Although he doesn't hold out much hope, Miller said Santoro has until April 16 to accept the offer.
"I think that would give us enough time to complete the project before the deadline," Miller said.
Because the grant funds were tied to a specific disaster – 2008 flooding – Miller said the opportunity will not arise again.
"If this project falls through, I don't see FEMA or the state having an appetite to offer a grant like this again," Miller said.
"We're convinced this is the right thing to do to get people out of the floodplain," Miller said. "We won't feel we've accomplished anything unless we make this project happen."