FULTON, Ill. — Approximately 2 acres of land in the Fulton Industrial Park soon will become city-owned property once again.
For the original sale price of $32,365, the city of Fulton has decided to exercise an option to repurchase land from local developer Jeffery Zaijcek after it declared that he violated a development contract for an incubator building.
Though the city had already established it would act on the option, it wasn’t until a Monday city council meeting that it became official and the reality set in, a reality Fourth Ward Alderman Howard Van Zuiden didn’t want to face.
“Maybe I’m nuts, but I (went) down and looked at that (property) and it’s been ruined,” he said. “Why are we buying it back?”
The option to purchase the property wasn’t the city’s only out on the development agreement, but based on a previous recommendation from City Attorney Bill Shirk, it was the cheapest.
If the city had decided to force litigation with Zajicek, Shirk informed the council that doing so could end up costing substantially more in court costs and lawyer fees, even if litigation ended up in favor of Fulton.
That realization made the decision to repurchase the property a nearly unanimous one, though Van Zuiden and other aldermen expressed their displeasure with the situation.
The part of the option that especially disturbed First Ward Alderwoman Barb Mask is the city has no choice but to accept the property from Zajicek in whatever condition he leaves it.
“I guess I understood the repurchase meant that we repurchase as we sold it. Evidently I missed that whole piece there,” Mask said. “I thought that was the agreement when we were buying it back for the same price, that we were buying back what we sold.”
City Administrator Ed Cannon explained the language within the option agreement only requires Zajicek to cleanup any equipment or debris that is left behind after demolition.
It does not state anywhere in the agreement that the property be returned to the city in its original condition, which means the concrete slab that acted as a foundation for the building and a subsequent hole created through construction be repaired or removed.
Knowing those features could be detrimental to reselling the property, Mask suggested the city approach Zajicek about removing the concrete in addition to the structure he already built on the property.
Fourth Ward Alderman Mike Van Zuiden didn’t think that resolution would be accepted by the developer.
“Do we really think the way this process has played out that he’s just going to say ‘sure, I’ll tear that out for you,’” Mike said.
While Cannon understood the council’s reluctance to accept the property as is, he added there is little to nothing the city can do to change the outcome of the situation.
“We’ve got an original purchase agreement from November 2013. We have a repurchase agreement that was three separate documents and none of it allowed the city any flexibility to say ‘you will return this back to its original condition.’ We can ask, but he has no obligation,” Cannon said. “This is going to be expensive for everybody. It’s expensive for Mr. Zajicek who invested money; it’s going to be expensive for us to get it back in good condition.”
“There’s no winners here,” he said.
Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at email@example.com.