Howie’s looking to buy lots

By Burk Krohe

The City Commission will consider a local firm’s effort to acquire three lots at the corner of 9th Street and Fair Lane at a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday. Commissioners will also consider the acquisition of land near the Manhattan Regional Airport.

The property sought by Howie’s Recycling Service was purchased by the Urban Renewal Agency in the 1970s and is owned by the city. Currently, the property is leased by the UFM Community Learning Center, and the lease expires Dec. 31, 2012. Howie’s wants to use the property for expansion.

The lease agreement contains a clause giving the city “an absolute right to terminate this lease Agreement at any time for any reason upon thirty (30) days written notice to Lessee, although Lessor may make a good faith attempt to avoid termination during the primary growing season.”

The city acquired the land through the Urban Renewal Program, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that disposition of the land be handled in one of two ways. The first is by sale at an appraised price; the second is a sealed bid process. A January appraisal put the value of the lots at $90,000.

Howie’s has worked with UFM on the proposed expansion. Currently, UFM uses the lots for community gardens.

During fall 2011, UFM participated in a process with Riley County for soliciting users of land on Collins Lane in the Hunter’s Island area.  Riley County has agreed to lease approximately 10 acres of land for community gardens and completed a lease agreement for the project. 

The Community Garden Board has made two requests regarding the Howie’s project. It would like the remaining garden space south of Riley Lane (Union Pacific railroad tracks) to be designated as permanent green space, to be used as a community garden. It would also like the city to provide a one-time financial contribution in the amount of $5,000 for continued development of Community Gardens.

City officials recommend approval. They believe it gives the city a chance to put those lots back on the tax rolls and will help the expansion of a local business.

Commissioners will also discuss the acquisition of land near the airport. In 2007, the city began the process, outlined by the federal government, to purchase a tract of land north of the airport owned by Feather Field Farms, LLC.  The primary reasons for the acquisition are to complete a wildlife fence around the airport. It would also protect the area around the Federal Aviation Administration operated electronic equipment used by pilots for navigation.

The city has discussed the issue with the property owner several times in the last four years to negotiate the purchase of the property. The city has never been able to reach an agreement, so it is seeking to acquire the property though eminent domain.

Due to the confidential nature of the acquisition, discussions regarding the specifics will be discussed in executive session.

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