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Colby vacant parcel marketing strategies not effective enough

The Colby City Planning Committee decided to look into marketing city industrial park properties more effectively in hopes of appealing to commercial and industrial buyers in the future.

Currently, the city has listings for city property for sale on its website as well as on the Clark County Economic Development Corporation and Tourism Bureau website. Yet, committee members felt that other municipalities were having better success at drawing businesses to the area.

“You’ve got to wonder… Stratford, they’re building all kinds of stuff,” Nancy O’Brien said. “Owen’s getting [development]. Medford’s got [development]. Abbotsford’s getting [development]. We’re on the highway. What are we not seeing here?”

The city’s current situation was made in comparison to Abbotsford who employs realtor NAI Pfefferle for the marketing of their available commercial and industrial lots. Jason Lindeman said Abbotsford pays the realtors based on how much a new build costs.

If a property is sold, Abbotsford would pay five percent commission on the tax assessed valuation projected when the developer’s agreement start date activity is fulfilled. The idea is that the city pays up front for the realtor but would recoup that money through tax revenue. However, the realtor is only paid if the property is sold.

Colby currently offers prospective industrial builders incentives to build which depend on how much assessed value the company plans to bring to the city. That scale ranges from charging $800 per acre of land to $1 depending on how much tax-assessed value is created.

The committee members said the current marketing plan for those parcels has not been working.

Todd Schmidt asked if the city could just perform an open listing on the properties but city clerk, and parttime real estate agent, Connie Gurtner said agents would be unwilling to pick up the listings because the city would be giving the land away for minimal monetary value and agents’ commission is based on purchase price.

Gurtner suggested the city give a realtor a maximum amount to ensure that the city wouldn’t be stuck giving an agent or firm commission on a sizable development.

“You’d come up with a set fee,” Gurtner said. “We could have a developer that wants to come in and develop all three of those parcels and have $10 million worth of value there and we’re not going to pay commission on $10 million.”

Lindeman brought up the concern of the city entering a bidding war with other municipalities over the rates of a potential commission package.

“If other cities are doing this and paying for marketing, why would a realtor tell a developer to go to Colby when they’re getting five percent from Marshfield or Spencer or wherever,” Lindeman said.

Schmidt said he wasn’t sure he was ready to award the opportunity of being able to market the parcels to one specific company or agent. Instead, he wanted to see the city get the best deal possible by opening it up to multiple firms and agents to see who would do it for the least amount of commission.

Gurtner wanted to make it clear that she did not have the time to do the marketing so an outside source would need to be utilized to perform the job.

“I feel like I always get blamed for the fact that we’re not marketing our property properly. I’m not hired to be a marketer. I’m an accountant and a clerk,” Gurtner said. “So that’s really the council’s responsibility to determine how we market our property.”

The committee decided to do more research on the matter and bring it up at a future planning commission meeting.

n The committee discussed an issue with a fireworks vendor who was setting up on Division Street, too close to residential property. Gurtner said last year’s setup was not legal but the city let it slide because they were late to issue a permit and had to get legal resources involved.

The committee agreed to issue a permit for the vendor for next year only if they were set up in a legal spot that was 500 feet away from any residential area.

n The council decided to discontinue the Community Development Block Grant - Revolving Loan Fund and give the money left in the account over to the state to be redistributed within the corresponding region. Gurtner said the program is seldom used but has been around since the 80s. The program was intended for people who wanted to improve their housing situation as they could apply for a loan through the city and get funding at a low interest rate. The loans could be paid back monthly at a 3 percent interest rate or deferred until the home’s title changes.

The current fund has over $200,000 in outstanding loans yet to be repaid. The account currently has $36,000 in it which would be transferred to the Department of Administration. The committee voted to recommend that the account be discontinued to the council.