SYCAMORE – On the eve of the DeKalb County Board's deadline, Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park owner Frank Santoro told the Daily Chronicle he has accepted the $1.47 million offer for his property.
"I don't have much of a choice, because we're in a flood plain and I can't fix houses," Santoro said. "I have to accept what they are going to give me."
County Board Chairman Jeff Metzger said county attorneys have been reviewing proposed contract language in an attempt to finalize an agreement before the County Board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Before Santoro's decision, county board members were poised to abandon a project to relocate residents and restore to open space the mobile home park at 955 E. State St. near Sycamore.
"Our legal department is reviewing the contract as we speak," Metzger said. "I know we are working toward an agreement on this."
On March 19, County Planning Director Paul Miller told county board members that the deal would be abandoned if Santoro and the county did not come to terms by Wednesday.
County leaders secured $7.1 million in state and federal emergency management funding that limits them to the $1.47 million purchase price and requires the project be finished by June 30, 2015. County officials have budgeted about $3.7 million to relocate residents and about $1.9 million for the purchase of the mobile homes there.
In the relocation process, officials plan to try to find comparable affordable housing in the area for displaced residents. But residents are not obligated to accept the housing offers that are made.
Officials began pursuing the grants after a 2007 flood damaged many mobile homes and forced the evacuation of the park. Since then, the park has flooded multiple times and also temporarily closed in 2008.
County leaders have been discussing a purchase of the property, which includes 33 acres of farmland and about 6 acres of railroad right-of-way nearby, with Santoro since October. After initially declining the offer, Santoro got his own appraisal of the property – $2.6 million – which county officials said state officials rejected.
On Tuesday, Santoro said he would accept the county's final offer of $1.47 million.
Santoro, who is 74 years old, said he bought the property for more than $600,000 in 1978. He changed his mind about the $1.47 million price after considering the limits involved with having property in a flood plain of the Kishwaukee River. Rules for property in a flood plain prohibit the construction of new structures that would impede water flow. The 125-unit park presently has about 30 empty spaces, Santoro said.
"They gave me an ultimatum, so then I stopped to think what my options are," Santoro said. "I decided to take the money even though I don't think it's the right amount."
He said he expects the residents will be pleased.
"The people who live there, they want out, too," Santoro said. "That's the feeling I got."