Farmer City OKs land swap deal

Farmer City OKs land swap deal

FARMER CITY — The city council passed two ordinances this week that will vacate two sections of West Street in exchange for about 5 acres of land near the Dollar General Store on Ogle Drive.

Despite public comment against the plan and lingering ethical questions, the measure passed, with the only no vote coming from Councilman Willard McKinley.

Negotiations for the deal have been ongoing for months between lawyers for the city and Jim Swartz, a former Farmer City resident and owner of the majority of adjacent land to the portions of West Street included in the agreement.

Mayor Mike Jenkins said Councilman Josh Hawn had previously sat down with Swartz's representative, Dan Dolbert, and Lynn Amacher, owner of an adjacent property affected by the land deal, to make the deal happen.

Per the terms of the deal, which was freely agreed to by the city and Swartz but forced upon Amacher, a $10,000 sum must be paid from Amacher to Swartz in order to purchase a 32- by 125-foot strip of land that previously belonged to the city, according to Farmer City Mayor Mike Jenkins,.

Without the purchase, Amacher would not be able to access city streets from his property, because the easement and right-of-way previously owned by the city would be transferred to Swartz.

According to City Attorney Kenneth Beth, another contingency on the deal before it can be finalized is a conveyance for the 4.6 acre tract from Swartz's Millenia Park to the city, and a deed conveying the strip of land from Millenia Park to Lynn Amacher.

The land transfers are expected to happen in the next two weeks.

Amacher said this week's council vote came as a surprise, as he was led to believe the deal would be tabled.

Hawn said he knew Amacher, Dolbert and the city were in agreement on a proposal after a meeting last Sunday, but he didn't expect the agreement to be ready for a vote at Monday's meeting.

Hawn said he called a few concerned residents to fill them in on the details of the verbal agreement reached between parties Sunday, and "as an aside" told them he "didn't think there was any way the lawyers would have the proposal ready for Monday."

Hawn said he went to the council meeting expecting to have the agreement tabled or removed from the agenda, but received news to the contrary when he sat down.

Hawn said he decided to vote on the issue despite it being put together quickly, because he did not want to give the deal time to fall apart.

Lynn Amacher said there was an agreement in the works, but he said by approximately 4 p.m., his lawyers had not seen the final agreement from Swartz's attorney.

"It is not a full written agreement yet. I was under the idea that we were going to have time to work on it before it came to council for the official vote."

McKinley, the lone vote against both measures, said he was primarily opposed to the deal-making process.

"The one thing I don't like about this is the way the whole deal was cooked, and I'm upset with the mayor and the city manager who cooked this deal," McKinley said.

McKinley added that there were too many factors not taken into consideration while the deal was reached, and he pointed to Amacher as an example. He also noted that Casey's General Store, the company expected to purchase the 5-acre plot from the city, has done "a lot of good" for Farmer City, but he said if they wanted a deal, "they should have done it themselves."

Jenkins said he spoke to representatives from Casey's after the meeting and said they were "very, very happy" the deal went through.

He added that the purchase of the newly acquired 5 acres by Dollar General Store "will happen. And it will happen quickly."

It is up to Swartz what he will do with the newly acquired sections of West Street, but he is expected to landscape over the streets, closing them to the public and adjoining the land he owns.

The affected formerly public property falls on West Street between Water Street and Green Street, and Green Street and Market Street. No East- or West-bound streets would be affected.

The land swap is expected to be finalized within the next two weeks, closing the streets to the public.

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A Very Busy Mom wrote on December 07, 2013 at 12:12 pm

It is my understanding that one person who lives in the area is going to have to pay Mr. Swartz $10,000 just to be able to access his driveway.

He has already had to pay out over $5,000 in legal fees fighting this.

There is something that doesn't smell right with this whole situation.


bsken1 wrote on December 07, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Oh come on Farmer City Counsilmen, the Mayor states Mr Amacher was pressured into the land swap deal....really! Yet he voted against Mr Amacher, now those that followed the Mayor's lead come off as trying to pass the buck, your vote, your deed. If you would have voted NO Mr Amacher would not have been put in the position YOU placed him in. Own it, you threw the "needs" of one property owner of your community, under the bus, to satisfy the "wants" of another! You refused to listen to the concerns of the people of Farmer City and did what YOU wanted, no consideration for what your constituates asked you to do. If Casey's is a part of this entire delimma, community members that spends money in the town daily, may just give their business to the competiting Huck's. Shame on Casey's if they contibuted but that may cost them in the long run. People in that community won't give their hard earned dollars to a business that is not community minded and those on that counsel will not always hold their seats. Casey's will need counsel approval for different things over time and their involvement in this may be a factor as to how future counsels deal with meeting their needs. I think local election time will bring change to who sits on the current counsel, I know my vote will be for change!

Farmer City Girl wrote on December 07, 2013 at 5:12 pm
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I am following this story closely and watched the video of this meeting. I suggest if you haven't seen it, please  watch it. It is very telling. Mayor Michael Jenkins and City Manager Larry Woiuling and  council members Josh Hawn, Mac Harden and Pat Pearl should be ashamed of what they have done to the people in Farmer City.  I notice council member Josh Hawn appeared to be somewhat in charge of these shady negotiations according to Mike Jenkins. Hawn  made the phone calls to residents telling them there would not be a vote Monday night when there really was after all.He is also president of the local Farmer City Chamber of Commerce. What role did the Chamber of Commerce play in this  scam?  Some chamber members were very vocal in their support behind the scene. I guess they had their presidents assurance he would make this deal happen any way he could for both the city council and the chamber of commerce.   I wonder how many of them can go to church tomorrow in good conscience?


BD10 wrote on December 07, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I have followed this closely as I am from Farmer City.  It saddens me that the majority of elected officials have chosen to panic and go forth with a deal that significantly impacts one resident negatively and for no guarantee our economic growth will happen.  The way in which this was done should be embarrassing to those who were involved.  As a community, we should be able to work with our elected officials to help bring people to Farmer City which is a centrally located, friendly, family oriented, safe town.  Instead, we have to watch those we elected so they dont do even more damage!