Let’s Fix That Tax Sale: 2nd In A Series

first_imgLet’s Fix that tax sale: 2nd in a seriesby George Lumley-All Rights ReservedPeople want the lots!Last week I introduced my approach to finding a solution to the tax sale and land banking problem by jumping right in and buying some lots at the tax sale. Ok you negative naysayers: It was a tax sale. The tax sale process is a complicated one with technical jargon but in our everyday language the properties were being offered for sale because of a result of someone’s failure to pay taxes. It appears to me that keeping these empty lots looking good would be a key point in promoting thriving neighborhoods. Who wants to live on a street where grass grows out of control and weeds are as tall as your head. That is right, when a house is for sale or rent, only the people who like unkempt yards want to live there and like they say, birds of a feather flock together.The story I want to tell today is not the most significant story, or my Christmas Story, but the story that people do want these lots. Yes I even found a Christmas Story at the tax sale that ends happily. It is a story about someone wanting a lot. I had planned to put the story in the my first printed edition of the CCO on Dec. 15, but due to technical difficulties I suppose it will appear here and I will find another big story for the first printed edition of the CCO now slated for January 15, 2016.The first time I heard that no one wanted these vacant lots was in a response given to me by a city employee about why so many doomed houses were still standing. Why was the city not tearing them down? I was actually told that “no one wanted the lots” so If we tear the building down the city has more grass and weeds to mow. How rediculous! The city is intentionally leaving structures barely standing so there is less grass to mow? Now this same theme of government not doing any more than they absolutely have to runs rampant in Evansville. The city/county will go to great lengths for special interest but claim they have no money or time for everyone’s best interest. The tax sale process with regard to nobody wanting the lots is yet another example.I began my quest to find out if anyone wanted the lots over a year ago. When I heard the city say they could not find properties for the State blight elimination program and one of the issues was having a use for the lot after a structure was torn down. I volunteered to look into it. Knocking on doors beside vacant houses that were doomed to be razed I found people who would gladly take the lot or split the lot with a neighbor, own the lot, care for the lot, and even pay taxes on the lot if they could just get rid of the Zombie structure (garbage) sitting on the lot. Almost any “use” qualified the structure for the grant funding which was intended to remove these zombie houses that littered the neighborhoods.I had no problem finding scattered zombie house properties. But the City leaders told me they needed more worthy projects in a targeted area near schools, parks and churches. That was easy. I went to one of the worst areas in Evansville across the street from Howell Park, and put together a project of ten zombie houses on three streets. People in the neighborhood were more than happy to own the lot, maintain the lot and even, pay taxes on the lot if the city would get rid of the zombie house. This time the city listened. They even acted like they cared and were pursuing the project. After eight months I discovered that my project, which was in everyone’s best interest, was not in the city’s special interest and they had really put one over on me.Now looking at the tax sale process this year the special interest are trying to put one over on our best interest with the stop the tax sale, give all the property to the Brownfields land bank, and also give them $1.7 million in tax dollars to fund their special interest. Let’s shed some light on these tax sale properties. Did you know that 60 properties were quietly transferred from the auction block to the Brownfields before the public had an opportunity to buy them? The Brownfields control them and in some cases you cannot buy them. The Brownfields sells these properties for a profit to who they want, when they want and if they want. Yes, a special interest nonprofit, can still make a profit. No one wants these properties? Now the next special interest pick was to adjoining property owners. Did you know that if you are an adjoining owner to one of these properties the commissioners can sell it to you and it does not go to the “tax sale”? If you knew that, you are an exception. It seems to be a well-kept secret that the lot is available and easily acquired by neighboring property owners. About 30 of the properties were transferred out of the sale using this process by the Commissioners for as little as $1.00 each. In some cases more than one adjacent owner wanted the same lot and the price went up.I found some very interesting transactions among these thirty properties. One in particular involves a property at 320 W Louisiana St. This is a narrow corner lot that became owned by the county because the Code Enforcement people allowed it to deteriorate to a point of no return; the city paid for the demolition; and now it falls into the hands of the commissioners. I spoke with James who owns the house next to this lot. He wanted it for parking and yard space. James was upset that he was not able to get it. He explained that the lot was too small to build on and he did not see how it would be any value to anyone but him. That is unless he wasn’t there and he assured me that he was not going anywhere. I guess he does not know what code enforcement stands for in Evansville. Some claim the code people to be the eviction police working for special interest and I am starting to see their point.Well anyway, James offered the County Commissioners a fair price for the lot next to his house. He offered to pay the county $300 for the lot. He wanted to own it, maintain it, and pay taxes on it. There would be no burden to the public tax payers or charities. Well James soon received a letter in the mail that another adjoining owner, Habitat, also wanted the lot and he would have to pay more than they were offering. This often happens because people really do want the lots and are even willing to pay for the privilege of owning, maintaining and paying the taxes. Now the puzzle here is that the other neighboring owner, Habitat, offered $5000 for the lot. Not a typo – that is $5000 for a lot that no one would want. Of the lots that made it to the Auction there was one that actually brought over $10,000. These are vacant lots that our officials are trying to convince us that no one wants.A new mystery for me and James is why Habitat would out bid him and pay $5000 for the lot next to him. As long as John lives in his house, Habitat can never build on it. He is a young guy and doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon. Habitat now owns the lot beside James and the lot behind it, directly across the alley. Both lots are too narrow to build. Is it possible they are going to start building super narrow houses that span from street to street blocking the alley? Brainstorm, maybe they are going to build up and over the alley. A two story drive through?As I separate fact from propaganda, special interest from everyone’s best interest, I seem to find more mysteries in a week than I can solve in a month. Why would Habitat pay $5000 for a lot they cannot build on? Why covertly transfer sixty properties to the Brownfields? Why keep the process of adjacent owners buying these properties undisclosed? Why use code enforcement for the special interest of running people out of their properties rather than use it for everyone’s best interest in helping people maintain their properties?One thing for certain. The propaganda about no one wanting these properties is CRAP. Maybe 5 or 10 out of 100 would be hard to place. The majority 90% could be placed through free enterprise with people who want to own, maintain, and pay taxes on the lots after the garbage houses are removed. No new laws, funding, land banks, etc are needed. We simply need to insure our leaders are looking out for everyone’s best interest rather than their crony’s special interest.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img

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