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The City of Beatrice plans on implementing a new program very soon that should be mutually beneficial for the City and for citizens. It’s called the Mow-to-Own Program and it is exactly what it sounds like: becoming the owner of a piece of real estate by mowing it. The City benefits by no longer having to mow so many vacant properties and program participants benefit by acquiring real property for next-to-nothing. Community Development Director Rob Mireau suggested that the City consider such a program and after doing some research, we put together a rough draft to present to the City Council to gauge their level of support for developing the program. The Council discussed the program at their most recent work session and everyone seemed to agree that the program is a good idea.

The program will give away vacant city-owned residential lots to an applicant who commits to taking care of the lot. The City comes to own these lots in a variety of ways including donations and efforts to recoup losses when the City ends up paying to demolish an unsafe structure after a property owner fails to do so. Anyone in Gage or surrounding counties can apply to participate in the program, but priority will be given to those who own property adjacent to the vacant lot, if they are interested.

We’re currently fine-tuning the terms of the program so that hopefully we don’t overlook any loopholes that will allow the program to be abused, but here’s the general process that we expect: We’ve already identified some city-owned properties that seem like they would be a good fit for this program, but we will need to constantly keep that list updated and accessible to anyone interested. Prospective program participants will be required to complete a short program application stating which lot they are interested in and what they plan to do with the lot. The only mandatory requirements of program participants is that they keep the lot mowed and perform snow removal and/or weed management, as necessary. Program participants will be credited a predetermined dollar amount each year that they maintain the lot, plus credit for other improvements made, until they have credit equal to the lot’s assigned value.

There will be some fees associated with program participation, but the fees will be nominal in comparison to the actual value of the real estate. We imagine that the program will be utilized by adjacent property owners who may be interested in expanding their property in order to build a garage or shed, or maybe just to have a bigger yard. Alternatively, builders or program applicants who don’t own adjacent property may be interested in obtaining a Mow-to-Own lot in order to build a home on the property. Of course whatever the program participant has in mind for the lot must conform with the City’s zoning regulations. Stay tuned, as we expect this program to be implemented soon and are excited.

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