City council: Downtown development agreement approved

At its Monday meeting, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a development agreement with Seldal Properties, LLC for the redevelopment of five downtown properties on Lincoln Highway.

Water rate increase approved

ROCHELLE — At its Monday meeting, the Rochelle City Council unanimously approved a development agreement with Seldal Properties, LLC for the redevelopment of five downtown properties on Lincoln Highway.

The agreement is for 318, 320, 322, 324 and 326 Lincoln Highway and the redevelopment will consist of mixed-use retail and residential space. The total project will be just over $1 million. The city will reimburse Seldal Properties, LLC $300,000 in five separate $60,000 payments, starting upon the acquisition and completion, but no sooner than Dec. 31, 2023. The money will come from the city’s downtown and southern gateway tax increment funding (TIF) district. 

“I think this is a classic example of a public-private partnership,” Mayor John Bearrows said. “We've said we need housing and we want to fill the stores up downtown. We're using TIF money to reinvest in the community. I commend [Seldal Properties, LLC Owner Bruce Seldal] for his efforts to do this because it will change the appearance of that whole downtown. I'm anxious to see it.”

Seldal answered questions at the meeting and said he plans to do an “extensive remodel” of the facade on the front of the downtown building that would see it rebricked and new glass windows and doors would be put in.

“From the outside, it would look like a new building,” Seldal said. “The rest of the funds would go into the interior of the buildings. A significant amount of upgrades need to be done not only to the rentals, but on three of the commercial spaces. Two spaces are currently leased that would probably not see any renovations. It would definitely be a huge improvement and beautification of downtown Rochelle.”

The 10 upstairs apartment units are planned to be remodeled. They would likely be one-bedroom apartments that will rent in the $700-800 per month range, Seldal said.  

“They'll be unique and something we don't have here in town,” Seldal said. “They'll be a little higher-end. I think updating these units will definitely bring some new life to downtown.”

The downstairs commercial spaces would be renovated inside to a point, but would be able to accommodate different types of business to eventually rent them. 

“The reason I came forward is, the section I think that needs the most help is the commercial retail side,” Seldal said. “We don't know what kind of tenants will come in for the commercial space. We'll beautify the front and basically provide a box and market it for rent. Depending on what tenant shows up, then you go in and remodel. The building has sat vacant for about six years.”

Water rates

The council unanimously approved a resolution establishing water rate increases that will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

An average rate increase per year for the next five years will be as follows: residential 4.9%, commercial 5.4% and industrial 2.8%. A recommended fee schedule will also be included for establishing outside lab testing services. The rate increase will run through 2027.

The rate increase was approved to help offset the costs of recent and future improvements to the city’s water supply and distribution system including constructing a new wellhouse and elevated storage tank, two radium removal plants and a new wellhouse set to startup on June 1. Well 8 is currently under design for the construction of an iron removal plant as the well has been “basically unusable” since the 1990s. A rate analysis was conducted that yielded the rate increase decision.

Storage

The council unanimously approved a preliminary and final plat of subdivision for property located at 15th Street and 8th Avenue after a petition by Haywell, LLC for the development of a self storage facility with six units. The city’s planning & zoning commission unanimously approved the preliminary and final plat of subdivision at its meeting last week.

ARPA funds

The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh to change plans for American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government. The city has already received half of its $1.23 million total and will get the rest this fall.

The rules for types of project the money could be used for changed, necessitating Monday’s decision. Originally the city council approved rehabilitation and painting of the overpass water tower for $940,000, investments in updating fiber infrastructure for $225,000 and updates to Railfan Park for $60,000.

The plan is now to use the money for $600,000 worth of water projects, $135,000 worth of updates to Railfan Park, $400,000 for community storm sewer projects and $100,000 for resident energy efficiency and security projects.

Union agreement

The council unanimously approved a collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents its Streets and Cemetery department that will run until April 30, 2026.

The streets and cemetery union met and ratified the collective bargaining agreement on May 19. The agreement includes a yearly three percent increase in wages and a new certification incentive program.

Property sale

The council unanimously approved a resolution approving the sale of two parcels of land it owns at 201 N. Washington St. and undeveloped land at the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and Washington Street. 

The meeting’s agenda packet said the property is “surplus real estate” and it is no longer necessary for the city to retain ownership. A request for proposal will be circulated to facilitate the process of selling the properties and make sure they’re sold or leased to ensure best possible uses.

Check presentation

The city presented a check for $32,142 to Rochelle Area Community Foundation Executive Director Emily Anaya as part of its yearly donation that comes from deductions to employee paychecks if they choose to take part. 51 city employees took part in the program this year.

"I just want to say thank you so much," Anaya said. "We're truly humbled by the generosity of city staff and employees. Thank you for all that you do for us."

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