OSWEGO — Port City officials have finalized a policy to deal with city-owned properties, most notably tax foreclosures, following a trial run of property sales under the program earlier this year.
The Oswego Common Council in January established procedures for selling properties acquired through tax foreclosure, with officials noting at the time the move was an attempt at codifying what in the past was an informal and not always transparent process. The council’s policies, which include a 30-day window for the previous owner to pay all monies owed on the property, were finalized last week.
Under the six-point policy, the city attorney requests payment of any outstanding balance owed on the property from the previous owner/occupant, providing a 30-day “last chance” window for payment.
If all monies owed are not paid in full, councilors convene during an executive session at an Administrative Services Committee to assign minimun bids and other criteria to properties.
Properties are then listed for sale for 45 days, during which sealed bids would be accepted at the city clerk’s office. As part of those bids, councilors would seek an explanation from any prospective buyer on their plans for the property
Following the 45-day sale period, councilors on the Administrative Services Committee would convene for a second executive session to award bids, reserving the right to select any offer not strictly the highest sale price.
The full council would then have to accept any bids.
Prior to this year, officials said the city did not have a system or policy in place for properties acquired through tax foreclosure.
City officials in late January listed seven properties for sale after the previous owners were unable or unwilling to make the required payments. The city set a number of parameters for the bids, including minimum bids, listing the properties on the city website and accepting sealed bids for 45 days.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said due to the success of the process earlier this year, officials moved to formally adopt the policy, which he called a more “fair, transparent and consistent” procedure than past property sales.
“We informally created this process because we wanted to do it as a test run, as a pilot, and see if it actually worked,” Barlow said of the city’s policy. “We can all agree it turned out all right.”
Barlow and others noted the policy allows officials to consider the future uses of the property, as well as how much a bidder plans to invest in a property.
“We’re not only interested in the highest bidder,” the mayor said. “We’re more interested in the use of the property and what the final product will look like.”
Council President Robert Corradino, R-7th Ward, said the previous system was “a hodgepodge,” and often favored those with connections at City Hall. He said the adopted policy puts a system in place that is transparent and open to everyone.
“And that’s the best way to go,” Corradino said. “Having a system in place that is transparent and also open to everybody is important, and we’ve proved over the last six months that it’s working well.”
Council Vice President Kevin Hill, R-3rd Ward, said the newly adopted policy provides consistency and transparency to the city sale process while maintaining the authority to convey property based on a combination of bid price, best proposed use and bidder history, rather than simply awarding property to the highest bidder.
“As stewards of city-owned property, we have an obligation to return properties to the tax rolls and to get them back into productive use in as timely a manner as possible, while minimizing and mitigating any detrimental impact a potential sale will have on surrounding properties,” Hill said, noting the council under the policy is able to focus on bringing families into city neighborhoods.
The city policy allows deviation from the standardized sale process for only two reasons: to engage in a mutually beneficial transaction with the Oswego County Land Bank or sell vacant parcels for immediate development beneficial to the city.