Why is the city buying so many properties? Recently I had a citizen call and ask me that question. The caller went on to say that he read an article that said the city was buying 39 properties. I assured him that the city was not buying 39 properties.

The city has been more active lately in buying and selling real estate than it had in recent history, so I wondered just how many real estate transactions the city has been involved with lately.

From Jan. 1, 2016 through today, the city has participated in 12 different real estate transactions. In five of those, the city bought property. In three transactions, the city sold property, and in four transactions, the property was donated to the city.

When it comes to the property that the city sold recently, two of those transactions involved alleys that were platted nearly a century ago, but were never used. The adjacent property owners approached the city about buying part of the unused alley. The third transaction was the sale of some ground in the industrial park to Hybrid Turkeys for their new production facility.

Of the four transactions where property was donated to the city, two of those were vacant lots. The city is trying to now market those lots for redevelopment. The third parcel that was donated to the city includes a dilapidated house. The former owner agreed to deed the house to the city and give the city $2,000.

The city will demolish the house and turn the lot into green space as it is located in the flood fringe. The fourth parcel that was donated to the city also included a dilapidated house. In this case, the former owner was judgement proof, meaning that the city could spend all of the time and resources in the world, but we would not have received any money.

At least this way, the city has the lot and we will look to sell the lot to recover some of our cost for the demolition.

Finally, the city has bought five parcels of real estate recently. One of those parcels was for the trail extension from Dempsters to Trailhead Park. This newly-acquired parcel will be part of this new trail. Three of the parcels that the city acquired are located near First and Grant streets and are part of an effort to clean up that area of town. The property at First and Grant streets was owned by three different owners, so the city had transactions with each owner to acquire their property. The final real estate purchase by the city was the acquisition of the old grain elevator on South Sixth Street. Once again, this acquisition was part of the overall effort to clean up our community and remove some of the dilapidated buildings.

So why is the city buying and selling more real estate now?

There are many reasons why the city is involved in these real estate transactions. As you can see from the examples listed, one reason is to clean up our community. It should be the property owner’s responsibility to clean up their property, but unfortunately, you cannot get blood out of a turnip.

Does the city just allow the eyesore to continue or continue to spend time and money trying to collect from someone that is judgement proof? Finally, there are zombie properties. These are properties that no one seems to own. Often, these are properties where the owner has died and the property has never been transferred to their heirs or they are properties that are being foreclosed on and neither the owner nor the bank claim ownership.

As you can see, there is a reason to the city’s buying and selling of properties. If you ever have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to explain the city’s reasoning behind a particular transaction. Keep in mind that every real estate transaction requires Beatrice City Council action, so you can always attend the council meeting and express your thoughts on a particular transaction.