Editorials

Shiloh village leaders need to get taxpayers out of bad real estate deal

Officials are considering one last proposal for development of the Red Barn in Shiloh before proceeding with plans to demolish the local landmark. It was built in the early 1900s as a dairy barn and later housed a string of restaurants and bars. It’s been owned by the village of Shiloh since 2009.
Officials are considering one last proposal for development of the Red Barn in Shiloh before proceeding with plans to demolish the local landmark. It was built in the early 1900s as a dairy barn and later housed a string of restaurants and bars. It’s been owned by the village of Shiloh since 2009.

About 34 years ago a group of investors decided an old dairy barn in Shiloh would make a great restaurant and meeting space, so they invested about $1 million.

It was popular for a time, but after a couple decades the investors were getting older and the shine was gone from The Barn. They decided to auction it in 2009.

Shiloh village leaders decided $185,000 was a good deal for a big building next to the village's Sierra Park. They bought it.

Now they really, really want to sell it.

What may be most telling about this deal is what was said in 2009 when the village leaders bought The Barn.

"In the future, the Board will be considering use options for the land and building," Mayor Jim Vernier said back then.

They never figured that out. They did spend time and taxes on mowing, but the upkeep was lacking and now the building is an eyesore to neighbors and needs repairs to the roof, from water damage and from mold.

Vernier now says the village is a "very motivated" seller.

You could say that, in hindsight, this was a bad deal for taxpayers and a unique building and neighbors suffered in the process. But the real issue is that there was no foresight, or even a vision that anyone on the board could articulate or agree upon.

Maybe The Barn is most valuable as cautionary tale for other government leaders: If there is neither a need nor a plan, maybe it's not a good idea to become a real estate speculator with other people's money.

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