Rossville offers housing lots for a dollar

Rossville offers housing lots for a dollar

ROSSVILLE — For $1, the village is offering subdivided lots in hopes of spurring development in the small town, and now, a builder from the Chicago suburbs believes it's an opportunity to attract empty-nesters from the big city.

"There's no catch to it," said Richard Queen, mayor of Rossville, a town of about 1,300 people on Illinois 1 in northern Vermilion County. The village, he said, will recoup its investment through the increased property taxes on the improved lots.

Queen said the village owns about 11 lots on the north side of town that it will sell for $1, but the offer also stands for two other subdivided sites owned privately. At those sites, the village will buy the $7,000 to $9,000 lots and sell them to the buyer for a buck once construction of a house has progressed to the point that there's a roof.

Initially, buyers have 90 days to come up with construction plans and to secure financing. Once those are in place, the buyer has one year to build a house. If that doesn't happen within a year, the buyer loses his dollar and the property reverts back to the village. If construction has begun at the one-year mark, an extension can be granted, said Queen, who added that so far, the village has done this with five lots on the south side of town and no extensions were necessary.

Now, Queen is hoping for a one-buck building boom on the north side of town.

Earlier this year, home builder Will Nelson of Batavia saw an ad for the $1 lots that Rossville has been running quarterly in a real estate magazine and contacted the village to see if this was for real.

"What's the catch? That was his first question," Queen said.

After getting the details from Rossville officials, Nelson wants to market the lots to empty-nesters in the Chicago-land area. He's offering five different layouts of ranch-style, maintenance-free, single-family attached homes, meaning two connected residences per lot, ranging in size from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet. Each residence would have at least two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full basement and a two-car attached garage.

Vermilion Advantage, the local economic development office, supports Nelson's development idea. Vermilion Advantage announced Nelson's plan in a news release Tuesday. Nelson said that when he saw Rossville's ad it intrigued him, and he doubted it was real. But since then, he has become "smitten" with Rossville as a safe, peaceful place to live with friendly people.

"Rossville is a step away from the stress that most of us are living with every day," Nelson said in the news release.

Queen said the homes Nelson would build would sell for about $150,000 and would be much more affordable than homes of the empty-nesters Nelson is targeting, and away from higher property taxes and traffic.

"We are real excited about it. We are hoping it will work. This guy has a good idea," Queen said.

Queen said the subdivision on the south side of town is not zoned for the attached homes Nelson is marketing, but the two subdivisions on the north side of town are. The homes would be served by Rossville village water, sewer and natural gas. Nelson said in the news release that the average price of the homes would be about $150,000, but the first couple of buyers could see a price closer to $135,000 to get the project up and running.

Queen said this could be a boon for the whole county, which could benefit in various ways from new residents in Rossville who won't be spending their money only in Rossville.

Vicki Haugen, president of Vermilion Advantage, said in the news release that her office is thrilled to see this dream come alive.

" We have been saying for some time now that focusing on becoming a destination for living is a key and underestimated aspect of economic development. Throughout our communities in Vermilion County, you can have a rural and relaxed atmosphere with key shopping and medical amenities no more than 10 or 15 minutes away," she said.

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