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Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 12:01 am

10th Street rail: Too early to relocate?

Residential properties on North 11th Street and Ridgely Avenue are on the IDOT list for acquisition as a part of the 10th and Third Street rail consolidation project.
PHOTO BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN

 

After the Illinois Department of Transportation released a list of more than 150 properties along Springfield’s 10th Street rail line last summer, property owners face the risk of being scammed.

IDOT has tentative plans to begin construction on Springfield’s Third and 10th Street rail line consolidation when funding becomes available. The department released a list of the 108 residential and 50 commercial business properties along the 10th Street rail line the state needs to eventually acquire to complete the proposed $315 million project. Residents and businesses will have to relocate.

Leroy Jordan, co-chair of the rail task force of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, is concerned property owners may not get the best value for the property if they aren’t careful.

“There are people coming in and they are setting up seminars … and then they’re talking about how much more money they can get for [the property owners],” Jordan said. “Which I think is like a charade.”

The state hasn’t confirmed when further details about any land acquisition will be announced. This is primarily because there isn’t money to fund the project, and thus IDOT hasn’t released plans of when work will officially begin along the 10th Street corridor.

For property owners or residents on that list of properties, knowing when they will have to sell their property to the state or move is significant. Should they take an offer now, or wait? That’s why the FCCG is trying to protect property owners and residents.

Jordan gave of an example of a recent sales pitch to a 10th Street line resident: “The realtor approached her about her property. He wanted to buy it, and said that she could stay in the property, free of charge, until the railroad bought it from him,” he said.

The FCCG has been keeping track of Springfield’s rail projects for years. Jordan said he feels important information about the project hasn’t been communicated well to those directly affected.

“Here we are as a community organization trying to be of service to our community and … there seems to be a purposeful lack of communication,” he said.

Federal law states that private property can only be taken for public use with “just compensation.” However, that doesn’t prohibit individuals in the private market from making offers. As a result, Jordan wants to make sure residents – particularly the elderly – are not taken advantage of.

Jordan makes these suggestions to owners of properties on the acquisition list:
Obtain a copy of IDOT’s land acquisition rules.
Consult with a real estate agent.
Find out what your property is worth from the tax assessor’s office.
Ask a real estate agent for an estimated replacement cost.
Explore the difference between the tax assessment value and the replacement cost.

“Somewhere in the middle of that, you want to ask for some money, but the closer you can get to the replacement value, the better you are,” he said.

In addition to real estate agents, property owners have also heard from individuals offering other services. Jim Dixon, who is also a member of the FCCG rail task force, attended a meeting last year where Jordan Walker, an attorney from Indianapolis, encouraged residents to hire his firm, Sever Storey, to handle their property acquisitions. Dixon said Walker claimed the firm has been successful in getting property owners more money than offers they receive from agents.

Dixon advised that residents keep in mind they have time before any acquisitions will happen.

“People should not be in a rush,” Dixon said. “People should maintain their property and wait and see what happens,” he said.

While owners will be affected by the purchase of property, Jordan emphasized that he also wants renters to know that they also will have opportunities for compensation as a result of being displaced. He said the FCCG plans to hold a meeting in February regarding the issues.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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