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City committee to negotiate sale of disputed parcel

EDITOR’S NOTE: The author incorrectly identified Councilman Tim Rose as the alternate on the committee. The alternate is Rick Mathis.

The purchase agreement for a parcel at 1121 133rd Ave. at Reno Drive will be negotiated by a City Council committee of three, City Manager Tim McLean and representatives of developers Josh Otto and Keith Nickels.

The City Council Monday night voted to have Councilwoman Tracy Bivins, Lisa Banas and John Sloan, with Tim Rose as alternate, to meet with developers and have an agreement reviewed by attorneys from Miller-Canfield.

The city was offered $20,000 for the 25-acre parcel in the industrial park after it sat idle for nearly 20 years. The city even tried to unload it twice for as little as $1 with a 50% tax abatement in 2014. Two industrial firms considered the offer, but later turned it down.

The property has the potential to be very expensive because it contains many wetlands that could cost as much as $1 million.

However, news of the potential sale prompted protests from business owners on Reno Drive, Bruce Schwartz, Ben Frigmanski and Robert Genther, who said the city was selling it horribly cheaply. They insisted a real estate sign at the property listed it as $50,000 an acre, yet this price would be only $800 an acre. They said the parcel should have been put up for bid and even said they might be interested in buying.

Though a purchase agreement has received tentative approval, Councilman Rick Mathis acknowledged the controversy and said of forming a committee, “For the expediency of the process, I think this is the only way we could proceed.”

Rose, who has indicated he opposes the deal, said, “To me, this still feels very much back door,” said. “As much as I appreciate what these gentlemen want to do, this property has not been listed.”

Indeed, the site hasn’t been listed since end of 2016 when the city had to give up on using it for a public safety complex, but grant funding did not come through.

Bivns asked McLean to list the property on the city’s web site, but Mayor Tim Bala said, “There’s already a pending sale.”

Banas asked, “Are you suggesting we retreat from the offer (received)?”

Mathis said, “If you have a purchase agreement, you cannot list the property as being for sale.”

Regardless, a three-member committee will meet with developers over the next two weeks and they hope to have a recommendation available for the next City Council meeting June 19.

The vote was 6-1 to form the committee, with the dissenting vote coming from Rose.

Council also have the same committee with Genther and his representatives to negotiate for a parcel at 1065 133rd Ave. Genther said he wanted the same deal Nickels and Otto are getting.

The vote was 5-2 to form the negotiating committee, with Rose and Bivins dissenting, though Bivins will serve.

PHOTO: This is the property that has caused a huge fuss over the last two months, a site the city tentatively agreed to sell for $20,000.

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