"Lot" To Think About For Aurora Park Board

Nobody is happy with a law dictating the bidding process for a small lot owned by the Aurora Park Board.

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(Aurora, Ind.) - The City of Aurora may not sell a small piece of land after a controversy involving a candidate for mayor.

James Pickett lives in Aurora’s Cochran neighborhood, where a small lot – only about 50x100 feet – adjoining his property recently went up for bid by the Aurora Park Board.

City attorney Alan Miller tells Eagle Country 99.3 the park board learned just this year that it owned the lot on Drake Lane. Because the board doesn't own any other property, it decided to sell the lot by putting it up for bid.

Pickett says he put in a $3,000 bid for the land. Another resident with adjoining property, Aurora City Councilman Mark Drury, put in a lower $2,000 bid. The park board learned of the previously sealed bids at a recent meeting, but has not taken action to accept either offer.

However, state law about how such property can be sold gives Drury, a candidate for mayor, the chance to re-bid for the land. Pickett doesn’t believe Drury should be able to submit a new bid knowing what his higher bid was.

Pickett, a city employee, tells Eagle Country 99.3 he brought the matter to current mayor Donnie Hastings Jr. Unsatisfied with the city’s response, he took to social media this week, calling the situation a case of “corrupt politics.”

“This is bullcrap people need to think about who they vote for in this election it's time to take out the trash and put somebody new in,” he wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Drury has also shared his perspective. He said he and his wife's home is part of a historic property - though not officially designated as such - which they have been working to acquire surrounding parcels to restore the property. Wife Margaret Drury explains that the property was known as Traveler's Rest, founded by a doctor who served in the Civil War. 

As a councilman, Mark Drury undertook a project to identify city-owned property which could be sold and restored to the city's property tax rolls. The parcel in question, located beneath power lines and too steep to be developed, was found to be one of those city-owned properties. He asked that the city put it up for sale, but insists he did not do anything illegal or improper.

"I was surprised and disappointed by his (Pickett's) reaction without gathering all the facts," Drury said. "I would like to have worked it out in a peaceful manner."

Now, with him running for mayor, Drury believes the matter has become a political football. 

Miller released a statement Thursday that it appears there is no way to resolve the land sale amicably. He said he will recommend the park board reject both bids and not sell the small lot at this time.

Here is Miller’s full statement:

Earlier this year, the City of Aurora Park Board (hereinafter referred to as “the Board”) learned it owned a piece of property off of Drake Lane in downtown Aurora.  As it is the only piece of real estate owned by the Board in the City, it decided to offer the real estate for sale.  

After following the required notice procedures and process, the Board received two (2) bids for the property.  The offers were shared with the Board at its August meeting.  After explaining the process to the Board and to those submitting bids, it was clear that no one---including myself to some degree---was happy with the law on this issue.  In fact, the Board made it very clear that its preference was to see the parties come to some sort of resolution that was fair to all involved.

Despite the Board’s desire, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that no final decisions have been made as to how to proceed, this matter has deteriorated to a point where there is it clear there is no hope of resolving this matter amicably.  As such, I have recommended to the Board that both bids for the property be rejected and the Board withdraw its offer to sell the property to anyone at this time.  The Board cannot take final action on this until its next regular meeting, but I do anticipate the Board will accept my recommendation.  

The City of Aurora and the City of Aurora Park Board will have no further comment on this matter.

The park board could vote to follow Miller’s recommendation or go through with a sale to one of the bidders at its next meeting. The board holds its regular meetings on the first Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. at the City of Aurora Administration Building.

Drury won the Republican primary for the party nomination for Aurora mayor in May. He is on the ballot this November against former city councilman and business owner Melvin Kremer, Jr., a Democrat.


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