• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Council approves land purchase negotiations

Throttle Down to share frontage road with City Park
An illustration delineates, in yellow, the piece of property the City of Tiffin wishes to buy in order to construct an additional frontage road to City Park. (illustration by Ben Carhoff of Hart Frederick Consultants in Tiffin)

TIFFIN– At first, it will be a road to nowhere. But eventually there could be another entrance to City Park amenities, if the City of Tiffin moves forward with a potential land purchase.
At a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, Tiffin City Council members discussed the acquisition of property near Throttle Down, 607 E. Marengo Rd., for a future frontage road off Highway 6.
“We have a chance to get this land that connects with the parks and everything,” said city council member Joan Kahler. “I think it’d be a good idea to take it upon ourselves to have that be available to us, even though we probably wouldn’t use it right away.”
The parcel is roughly 7,500 square feet and extends about 80 feet from the Throttle Down parking lot to the east– toward City Park and a city-owned plot that could house a community recreation center in the coming years.
Mayor Steve Berner said discussions between the city and property owner, Chad Freeman, owner of Throttle Down, have more-or-less settled upon a price tag of $5 per square foot– putting the total cost of purchase around $37,500.
“We don’t know what his timeframe is,” said City Administrator Doug Boldt. “Our best bet may be a first right of refusal at a set price, at a set date, which is renewable one time within the next three years or something.”
First right of refusal would not obligate the city to buy but would give the city priority if Freeman were to receive another offer in the future.
“That might be our best option,” Boldt explained. “It gives us flexibility and a locked-in price.”
According to the city’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP), currently forecast through Fiscal Year 2021-2022, there is more than the $37,500 budgeted for the purchase.
After Berner first presented the idea to council members in March 2016, two corresponding items were added to the long-term budget.
The first is $50,000 allotted for the purchase of the 80 feet of property for the frontage road, to be used in FY 2017-2018 and paid for with outside funding. The actual frontage road to City Park off Hwy. 6 is budgeted at $250,000 for FY 2020-2021 and paid for with general obligation bonds.
“I’m comfortable with this being a reasonable acquisition,” said council member Mike Ryan. He then made a motion to continue discussions with Freeman.
“Your motion would basically give authorization for the mayor and myself to pursue negotiations,” said Boldt. “And then bring that information back to the council for approval.”
Negotiations include the demolition of a house, currently providing rental income for Freeman, on the property.
“We’ll need him to continue to be able to rent the house until we decide what we’re going to do with it. Or give him a deadline of when we want to tear the house down,” said Berner. “But I don’t think the city’s going to pay anything for the demolition. That’s part of his income to help demolish it when he demolishes it.”
If the city were to buy the lot with the house, it would effectively become city-owned property, which Berner said he doesn’t want because it would require insuring it.
Freeman must also construct more parking for Throttle Down, after the addition of sand volleyball courts last year removed several spaces. The city originally waived the requirement for paved spaces and allowed gravel parking until council members could make a decision on whether or not to purchase the adjacent property.
“If we hold off the purchase, that’ll be on him,” Berner added. “He’ll have the money coming eventually if he accepts our offer. But he’s got to get that parking lot in.”
Currently the restaurant has about 30 paved spaces but needs 73 total, said Boldt.
The purchase also leaves enough room for an additional commercial building and parking spaces on what is currently Freeman’s property.
“It would’ve made a difference to Chad if we said, ‘Hey we need this, and what that means for you is you have open space you can’t do anything with,’” said Boldt.
According to an aerial by Ben Carhoff, of Hart-Frederick Consultants, the building could offer up to 22 feet of parking, or 11 spaces.
“I’m still not convinced that we need this,” said city council member Peggy Upton. “I feel like we’re just paying for his parking lot. I know it’s an access to a space that we own. We don’t know how much it’ll get used since we have another access. What if we don’t build here? What are we going to do with this little piece of ground?”
Berner noted a frontage road would allow access to the city-owned plot no matter what goes there– a community recreation center, more ball fields, or otherwise.
“It’s a very marketable piece of ground,” he said. “The city may decide to sell it.”
He added a sale is unlikely however.
“It turns out that it’s not enough money that I’m going to get real passionate about objecting to or anything like that,” said Upton. “I’m just not enthusiastic.”
A motion to allow purchase negotiations between the city and Freeman was passed by council members, 5-0. An agreement will be brought back to the council at a later date.