By Bob Balgemann


Boone County and the City of Belvidere both are members of the Northern Illinois Land Bank Authority that was created in 2019. The purpose of that regional organization is to get abandoned and blighted properties, including houses, put back on the tax rolls and be an asset to their community.

While the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its second year, has slowed progress of the Land Bank, there have been a few transactions to help the organization move forward.

Updates on the Rockford-based Land Bank come from Sherry Giesecke, vice chairman of the county board and liaison to that organization, and Belvidere Public Works Director Brent Anderson.

Giesecke gave the most recent report, at the March 18 county board meeting, when she talked about what happened to the three properties inside the Belvidere city limits.

But first she had an update on grants the organization had received to help with expenses related to the overall acquisition of properties. The first grant was $250,000 and it arrived in summer of 2019; the second, of $225,000, was awarded last year. Most recently, the Land Bank received $175,000, this one through the Strong Communities Program of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Then there was a status report on the three properties, each with a house, which the city had titled to the Land Bank. They are:

1000 Nettie St. There were four offers on that house, with the winning bid of $41,414. “We would have liked all of them to be owner-occupied, but that’s not the case with these four,” the board member reported. “So this one will be rehabbed and sold.”

Before title was transferred to the Land Bank, the city contracted for $11,000 worth of window improvements to the Nettie house.

  407 Allen St. There also were four offers and it ultimately was sold for $41,003 to a commercial management company.

  1031 Garfield St. Before saying this property had four offers as well, Giesecke noted, “I’m told this one is kind of infamous because it had so many ‘for sale’ signs in front of it. This one had nine applicants, four offers and went for $40,003. It could be split into two units.”

The final of the four properties was on 16th Ave. in Rockford, which also received four offers and was sold to a Chicago investment company for $26,751, she said. As an aside, she said each of the Belvidere properties brought more money than the one in Rockford.

As part of her update, she said it costs the Land Bank $2,500 to $4,500 to process acquisition of donated property. “So you can see we’re making some progress in building up some capital,” she added. “That capital can be used for such things as (acquiring) commercial properties, which is where we hope to eventually get more funding.”   

Madison Street

Belvidere City Council previously offered the property at 407 W. Madison, including a house, to the Land Bank. But those officials weren’t interested because of the poor condition of the building, so the city kept title to it.

Council later voted to contract for the house to be demolished and that was done. Discussion followed as what should be done with the then-vacant lot. Aldermen instructed city staff to contact property owners on either side of the lot to see if they were interested in acquiring it.

In a recent update, Anderson said those residents, who were renting the two adjacent houses, had been contacted and both said, “they would get back with me.”

Alderman Dan Snow asked what would happen if someone acquired the Madison Street lot and chose to build a house on it.

“Would they have to pay a (water and sewer) connection fee, or is that covered because there is already service there?” he asked.

“It could be covered,” Anderson replied, “because there is an already an existing facility there, unless for some reason they would require a larger meter. I don’t foresee that happening.”

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