Monday, July 26, 2010

A second Homestead Act in Beatrice, Nebraska

Monica Davey reports today in the New York Times on communities around the country--some rural and some urban--who are offering free land to folks who will, well, homestead it. Mostly the municipalities, whether small or large, from Dayton, Ohio, to Beatrice, Nebraska, are giving away the land in an effort to bolster tax revenues and reduce expenses, such as those associated with mowing vacant land. Here's an excerpt from the story, this part focusing on Beatrice, population 12,496, and the site of the first recorded homesteader, Daniel Freeman, in 1863. Now Beatrice has passed the Homestead Act of 2010:

The calculus is simple, if counterintuitive: hand out city land now to ensure property tax revenues in the future.

“There are only so many ball fields a place can build,” Tobias J. Tempelmeyer, the [Beatrice]city attorney, said the other day as he stared out at grassy lots, planted with lonely mailboxes, that the city is working to get rid of. “It really hurts having all this stuff off the tax rolls.”

This isn't the first time a Nebraska community has given away land, but the motive in the past has been more about stemming population loss and sustaining communities than about raising revenue. Read more here.

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