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Letter: A more complete story about my house on river

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In regard to the Saturday, July 26, Forum article about the city of Fargo’s eminent domain plans for my house:

It portrayed me in a negative light, which is my fault. The reporter, Erik Burgess, left me a message to call him, which I failed to do. The last time I did so, for an article in February, it seemed to greatly upset the city administration.

A few weeks after a February article appeared, I got a call from the city attorney saying they had a great new offer for me. When I arrived for the meeting, they said The Forum reporter, Burgess, had called asking about our dealings, and the offer was gone. I heard the assistant city attorney tell someone else at the meeting that she could have worked this out easily if it hadn’t been for the article.

A new offer

They then wanted to know if I would be interested in one of the vacant lots the city owned instead. A local businessman was dealing with the city at the same time as me. He owned land north of me with an assessed value of $40,000 on which he planned to build condos. The city’s appraiser gave the land a value of $5,700. I understand they have recently offered him $120,000.

A caller on a local radio show said a house should have never been moved to my site in the first place. Nobody told me that in 1999 when I bought the place, a week after the new dike was certified. The city didn’t mention this the three times in the past seven years when I took out building permits. A little heads-up would have been nice. The week before I read in The Forum that there was a buyout list, Menards had delivered $8,000 worth of custom cabinets.

Improvements

I have spent more than $100,000 and much of my free time over the past seven years building a garage, gutting the main floor and adding a full second floor to my house. I wanted to have more room and a better view of the river. People told me that this might not be a wise investment as the original plans called for three bedrooms, but I don’t have that many friends and wanted more room so it is a two-bedroom. I believe that I would probably live there another 25 years, so resale wasn’t that important.

I think I may be the only one in Fargo who doesn’t think I am greedy in not accepting the city’s offer. The woman who cuts my hair said she had to stick up for me when two ladies were talking about me while under the dryers. She lives in West Fargo though.

Cheaper for city

The $140,000 value the city gives my house is their figure. The city’s appraiser discounted the property because it was by the river. I might not have bought the house and I surely wouldn’t have done the amount of renovations I did if it wasn’t. I applaud the city’s flood mitigation efforts and understand the need for a fortified dike. The reason the plans for the dike are going though my house rather than behind it is because it was cheaper for them. I offered to let them place it where my garage is if they would move it to the north side of my house.

Flawed appraisal

On the appraisal report, my house was compared with five others, all built before 1930. Mine had the second-lowest price per square foot. The only way I can challenge this number is to go through eminent domain, hire an appraiser and go to court.

The $200,000 figure the city says they are offering is inaccurate in my case. As I have told them, I just want to move to an existing house in a neighborhood with trees. The figure includes $15,000 in special assessment credits. Very few existing homes that I have looked at have specials due, let alone $15,000.

Regarding salvage rights, which are included in the offer, I put in an $8,000 heating and cooling system in 2009. I asked the mechanical guy at work and he said I could maybe get $500 for the furnace and air conditioner.

Other deals

I believe the city has offered other buyout candidates much more than they offered me. One of my neighbors wanted to stay in the old part of town, like me, but to make the deal work they bought a new house. The guy from the city told them if in three years they didn’t like it, they should sell it and buy something else. They got the biggest lot in the cul-de-sac, with specials much higher than the standard $15,000, that the city picked up. They also paid for a $6,000 fence around the property. They got a $200,000 house and the city had valued theirs at under $100,000.

I imagine this must happen in other cases, too. The city wants to keep the official purchase price low so sellers can’t compare offers and maybe the public has a harder time following the process. Another factor may be that lower-income people may qualify for federal grants, thus reducing the city’s costs.

I don’t think I’m greedy. I just want to move to a similar quality house.

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