For those who have been following the Community Development Authority's proposed Burr Oaks senior housing project on the city's south side, there has been an interesting turn of events in the efforts to acquire several apartment buildings for the project.

After receiving some criticism from the owners of those buildings and from former Ald. Brenda Konkel, who attended the last CDA meeting, regarding the below-market prices offered for the buildings, all of which are owned by minorities, CDA member Stu Levitan e-mailed other members and city staff about potentially revisiting the offers.

His e-mail, which was posted on the Isthmus forums, reads:

While I am sure we are on firm legal grounds with our offer, I think our position is symbolically disastrous and politically untenable. I think we will be doing the CDA and the project itself long-term damage if we do not refine our offer further. Unless there is some exigency which makes time of the essence, I would like to have a further discussion of this at our next meeting, or a special meeting called for that purpose. Having been on the prevailing side, I intend to request reconsideration for that purpose.

What I found interesting about that e-mail is the distinction Levitan makes between what is legal and what is right and the potential impact that the CDA's actions could have on a neighborhood that is working to renew itself and a project that many see as needed and important for the neighborhood's aging population. As far as I understand, the city has followed the legal process for acquiring these properties, but Levitan makes the point that there may be additional factors at play with this project.

While feelings have cooled a bit in light of the city's third offer for the buildings, property owners still expressed disappointment about being forced to sell their properties (which they would not be doing otherwise) at prices lower than their assessed values at a CDA subcommittee meeting Tuesday morning.

The speakers noted their long-time ownership and investment in these properties and said despite some of those investments facing difficulties right now because of the economy, they considered their ownership "success stories," particularly considering the relatively few minority-owned businesses in Madison. They also reviewed some of their community investments, such as renting out units for Joining Forces for Families, helping former tenants become homeowners and offering financial classes for neighborhood residents.

The owners again asked the city to honor those investments by offering at least the assessed value of the properties. Currently, the offers stand $181,600 short of the $2.3 million total assessed value of the seven properties for 2009.

"Paying us less continues to put a hardship on my family which I really feel we do not deserve," said Nedra Bobo. "We are hardworking and work to pay what we owe" in taxes.

Levitan says he has not heard back yet on the e-mail from staff or other members, but as he mentions above, those on the prevailing side who voted in favor of the offers can move to have the CDA revisit the issue. According to a past article, the owners technically have until 4 p.m. today to accept the offers, but the CDA will not actually acquire the properties through condemnation from those who didn't sell voluntarily for a few weeks. Even after the CDA takes the titles to the buildings, the owners have two years to take the CDA to court.


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