Call it a blast from the past - Beatrice, Nebraska has announced that it has several vacant plots of land in the western part of town. But this land won't be going to the highest bidder. Instead its a rendition of the Homestead Act of 1862.
"I don't think they'll have the horse and buggy days. It'll be something different," said Robert Rayburn.
Rayburn has lived across the street from the vacant land for 35 years.
"It's little. Small. You can get from one place to the other without getting run over," said Rayburn of the town of Beatrice.
Other towns in Nebraska, the plains and the Midwest have set up similar programs. Here's how it works: People are given city-owned lots if they agree to build homes and establish residency. The new residents add their numbers and energy to the communities and the new homes boost sale and property tax bases.
The Act, which was sign by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, helped settle Nebraska and other states as settlers were given 160 acres of land free, after proving they had worked it and built a home for themselves.
Now, 148 years later, Beatrice will be joining other Midwest towns in creating its own version of the Homestead Act of 1862.
"I'd like to see about three or four houses built right here," said Beatrice Attorney Tobias Tempelmeyer. "As this project gains notoriety and experience, we have some other lots in town that we can look at."
Beatrice Mayor Dennis Schuster said the goal is to encourage new residents to move into the area and increase home ownership, while the Chamber of Commerce looks forward to increasing business in Beatrice.
"If you're accepted in the program you have six months to take out a building permit to build a new home," said Schuster. "Then you have one year to actually construct the home and occupy it. Then you have to live in it for a total of three years. After that time, if you've done all that the land is your free and clear."
"If we get people to move here and build houses, the contractors are happy, the utility company is happy, the attorneys are happy, we get to do more work," Jim Nelson, the with Beatrice Chamber of Commerce.
And residents like Rayburn, get more people to talk to.
"I'm still here," he said. "And i have been for quite a few years. And i plan on probably being buried here."
In other words, he likes beatrice and welcomes anyone who wants to be his new neighbor.
For now, the free lots are on the west side of Beatrice on land the city obtained through foreclosures and other actions. There is no deadline to buy, however this phase of the project will end once the available lots are spoken for.
To learn how to get your piece of the free land, visit http://beatrice.ne.gov/ or click the link below.