A Mobile City Council committee discussed the merits of an ordinance that would require the city to advertise property before it’s sold, would require councilors be notified prior to having a sales agreement in place and in some cases could allow abutting property owners to bid on a parcel.
During a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Chairman of the Committee Councilman Joel Daves, along with committee members Councilman Fred Richardson and Councilwoman Gina Gregory discussed a proposed ordinance pertaining to the sale of city-owned property with Councilwoman Bess Rich, who was also in attendance.
Daves told Deputy City Attorney Florence Kessler the council had two main concerns when it comes to the sale of city-owned property.
“One, the council would like to receive notice of the sale before the public does,” he said. “Two, we want to know that the proposed sale of property is being brought to the attention of nearby land owners, which I think can be accomplished by posting … a sign no less than 30 days prior to taking bids.”
Council Vice President Levon Manzie formed the committee after councilors, especially Richardson, heard concerns from property owners in the Chateauguay neighborhood in Midtown after the city placed “for sale” signs on long-vacant parcels of land previously undeveloped due to flooding concerns.
“Driving through my district I saw a large number of signs,” Richardson told Kessler. “I was bombarded. We don’t want anyone trying to sell anything we don’t know anything about.”
The draft ordinance will attempt to give councilors prior notice of property that’s for sale before the public is made aware. The ordinance will also require that property be listed for sale for at least 30 days before a sale agreement is proposed.
The ordinance also gives councilors the final vote on sales agreements, Kessler said.
Under state law, the city can only accept fair market value or above when it sells public property. However, the City Council can give the city permission to sell a property at below fair market value, if it’s deemed as a public necessity.
Fair market value can be determined in three different ways depending on the overall value of a property in question, according to the ordinance. For properties that are lower in value, the city can use a tax assessment to determine fair market value. For properties of a more moderate value, the city must use the opinion of a broker. However, if the value of a property is considered high, the city must get an appraisal.
In the past, the city has sometimes allowed the buyer to pay for an appraisal on public property. With the new ordinance, committee members have requested the city pay for all appraisals and work out a reimbursement during closing.
The ordinance also allows the city to put a property out to bid after it has been properly advertised. In cases where a parcel may be of use to only one or more abutting property owners, the ordinance dictates the other abutting owners be made aware of the sale. The city may then accept bids for the property from those interested.
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