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Bank donates foreclosed property to Sterling

Grant money will be used to rehab house

STERLING – A bank has donated a foreclosed residential property and some money to fix it up to the city.

The City Council on Monday gave its unanimous approval for the mayor to enter into a donation agreement with Wells Fargo Bank. The city will assume ownership of the property at 509 Fifth Ave., which has been abandoned since August 2010.

The bank contacted the city several weeks ago about its offer. In the agreement, the bank also agrees to do some preliminary work at the house including tarping the roof, and doing some landscaping and hauling of debris.

The property will be donated in “as is” condition, but the bank has offered $10,000 toward repairs.

Mayor Skip Lee said additional funds for renovations should be available soon from a grant awarded to the city through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

“No city funds will be used, and we’ll be able to get this property rehabbed and back up on the tax rolls,” Lee said.

The grant allocation is part of $70 million Illinois received in the $25 billion national foreclosure settlement with five of the nation’s largest banks. The settlement money was intended to help homeowners and communities harmed by fraudulent mortgage-related services.

The five banks involved in the February 2012 settlement negotiated by attorney generals in several states were Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly known as GMAC.

Amanda Schmidt, city building and zoning superintendent, said the grant is expected to bring the city an estimated $285,000. She said this property presents a good opportunity within the parameters of the grant’s objectives.

“This is a house in decent condition in a pretty good neighborhood,” she said. “The banks don’t want so many foreclosures on the books, so they are giving them to municipalities and nonprofits so they can be rehabbed for low- and middle-income homeowners.”

Although the donation of foreclosed properties by banks is becoming more prevalent, City Manager Scott Shumard said this is the first time it has happened in Sterling.

“This is totally new for us, and I don’t know that this is going to happen again any time soon,” Shumard said. “This property could be fixed relatively easily, and we had grant money available, but taking on other properties might not make as much sense.”

In other matters, the council began discussion on the first segment of the zoning code revision. When a manageable portion of the rewrite is drafted, it is brought to the Plan Commission.

“Tonight, the first section has been blessed by the Plan Commission for your review,” said city consultant Dustin Wolff, who has led the project.

The council began discussions on Article 3, which deals with zoning districts and land uses. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the drafts before the code is adopted.

Also, Shumard said work at the lift station on Freeport Road will begin on Sept. 2.

Next meeting

Because of the Labor Day holiday observance Sept 1, the Sterling City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2, at City Hall, 212 Third Ave., on the first floor in the Council Chambers.

Go to or call City Hall at 815-632-6621 for an agenda or more information.

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