Danville considers incentive for law office

DANVILLE - The city of Danville has drafted a redevelopment agreement with an attorney who wants to build a new law office across from the Danville Public Library in the downtown.

Attorney Baku Patel, who has a law office in Champaign and leases law office space in downtown Danville, has a tentative agreement with the city to receive some assistance in purchasing property — and clearing up any environmental concerns — on the northeast corner of North Vermilion and Seminary streets, across from the library.

The property, which has been the site of a gas station and auto repair shop through the years, sits within the city's Midtown Tax Increment Financing District, which offers the city a way to provide some financial assistance in developing the site.

The city council's public services committee will consider Tuesday night an agreement that would provide Patel with about $65,000 in assistance in re-developing the property. The committee meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the city council chambers of the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville.

Chris Milliken, the city's zoning and planning manager, said according to the proposed agreement, the city would buy the property for $55,000 from the current owner, Harold Smith. The city would demolish the existing building and pavement and enroll the property in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's remediation program, which would resolve any environmental issues on the property. Once the agency issues a letter clearing the property of any remediation on the environmental issues, which could take 6-8 months, the city would sell the property to Patel for $35,000. He would then build a new law office on that corner. In addition, the city would reimburse Patel a portion of his property taxes for 12 years, not to exceed $25,000.

Milliken said all of the assistance from the city, including the property tax relief, demolition and money toward the property purchase, would total about $65,000, and all that money would come from the city's Midtown TIF fund. In a TIF district, a portion of the property tax revenue generated by the properties in that district are funneled into a city fund and those dollars are reinvested back into the district to help spur economic development and further increase the property tax base.

Milliken said the environmental situation complicates the redevelopment time line, but the goal is for Patel to buy the property from the city by next spring so he can have a new office built and ready to open in the summer or fall of next year.

The city received an EPA Brownfield grant last year that provides funding for environmental assessments of properties that are suspected of contamination, which often discourages developers from buying them. The grant funds the initial assessment of such properties and either identifies the type and level of contamination or confirms that none exists, giving potential developers a green light to proceed or a better idea of what issues exist.

Milliken said this property across from the library was part of the city's Brownfield grant program, and it was determined that there was some petroleum that leaked from the old underground storage tanks and petroleum that leaked into the ground from underneath the building.

But, Milliken said, that doesn't mean that clean up of the property — physically removing the petroleum underground — will be necessary. He said entering it in the IEPA remediation program will determine what needs to be done, but most likely removal will not be necessary because the law office can be built without disturbing the ground below. If the ground below is not disturbed, then no exposure pathways are created, he said. However, if it's determined that some cleanup is necessary, Milliken said it would be minimal, and the Brownfield grant would pay for it.

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