Salem banking on future development of land

SALEM — The economic development committee of city council agreed Tuesday to forward two pieces of legislation to council regarding a vacant city-owned property on East State Street that could be developed.

The committee is recommending the county land bank be named as agent for the city regarding the property located near the former Butler Museum building. In a separate action, the committee is recommending the property be conveyed to the land bank for $1, similar to what the county commissioners just did with the former Butler Museum building.

Mayor John Berlin explained the need for the resolutions due to a potential redevelopment of the area. The Butler building stands next to three vacant parcels, one owned by the land bank, one owned by the city and one privately owned. By transferring the city-owned property to the land bank, he said the property won’t be subject to any bidding requirement for the sale.

He also said if the property is sold for more than $1, then the city could get the difference.

Councilman Andrew Null questioned if ownership of the land remains with the city and Berlin said he couldn’t answer that but noted that conveying the property to the land bank gives the land bank the ability to formulate a plan for economic development. He said the city would be consulted on what goes in there, possibly through executive session.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey asked if there was someone interested in the property and Berlin said someone was actively looking at it.

Councilman Geoff Goll questioned who sets the price for a purchase. Berlin said the offer would be made by the developer.

“I’m just happy that there’s a chance they could clean that area up,” Councilman Roy Paparodis said.

Law Director Brooke Zellers said the city could keep ownership, put it up for sale at bid and someone could buy it and let it sit for 20 years. This method of turning it over to the land bank allows for an economic development opportunity.

Dickey had a concern about the city losing control of what goes on the property, but Zellers said there would be a separate agreement for that.

He said he and county Development Director Tad Herold have a lot of details to work out before the legislation will be ready. He indicated they will not be ready for the next council meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 16.