Coulda woulda shoulda

By Lynette Sowell

Managing Editor

Considering the city’s sale of the Boys Ranch Road property, the way it came about is disappointing. I believe the council should have kept to its original course started in November 2015 when the discussion of leasing policies came up. The council “coulda” still achieved its objective to get out of the leasing business and returned property to the tax rolls by sale of said property and added revenue to the city’s general fund if things were handled differently. 

On my first “try” at writing this column, it ended up at around 1,300 words. That’s a lot of ink. So I’ve honed this down. 

In November 2015, when Cove House’s lease was up for renewal, councilman George Duncan proposed extending it through March 31, 2016, until the city could develop a leasing policy so it is “fair and equitable to every entity and not just one.” If I led a nonprofit group that leased city property, I would have been sitting up taking notice in November 2015 and probably sweating a little. In February 2016, Ryan Haverlah gave a presentation about developing that leasing policy. 

The term “public purpose” was brought up with that presentation, that a lessee should be able to demonstrate a public purpose which they carry out while leasing said property. During the meeting, the council couldn’t come to a consensus about a policy, so it pushed discussion to its annual retreat in March. 

Here’s a snip from my March 2016 article about the council retreat, when the discussion of leased properties came up:

“A leasing policy and what to do with current properties that are being leased by the city was revisited, with the council deciding to go forward with ‘getting out of the leasing business.’ After much discussion, the council came to a consensus to direct the city staff to come up with a three-year plan that would let those entities leasing properties know they have three years to decide what they will do about staying at their current locations. However, in certain cases, verbiage can be put in those notices and MLS sales notices that would restrict the use of those buildings and pave the way for groups to purchase the properties they currently lease.” 

My first question is: what happened to the three-year plan as discussed during the retreat? Why wasn’t the way paved for the Saddle Club? The three-year plan is also mentioned in the August 16, 2016 meeting minutes, that the “Council agreed to notify all tenants leasing City property that the City intends to sell the properties after three years’ notice is provided.” 

It has been no secret (to me, anyway) that the Cove Saddle Club was the property lessee. I mentioned it in my article for that meeting. Why was this property placed on the sales list last fall, more than one year before the group’s lease was up? Where is the notification to all tenants from the council? 

Did the club fall through the cracks because, although it’s a nonprofit, it didn’t sufficiently demonstrate a “public purpose” for their activities? Public purpose is not defined as bringing in sales tax revenue. From my perspective, I would have welcomed the chance to promote the group’s activities and competitions it hosts. As far as public purpose examples, the club “coulda” hosted a Meet Our Horses Day for the community, or a day for at-risk youth, or a family day at the club, or hosted a Communities In Schools field trip.

I have told at least one nonprofit about the dangers of “Out of sight, out of mind.” Get your name out there. Write press releases about what you’re doing and what you’ve done. Visit the city council during open forum and share your news. Don’t wait for someone to come to you. Don’t rely on your friends and Facebook to promote yourself: seek out and use ALL the resources you can to raise your visibility and invite the community to be a part. I believe the Saddle Club’s presence at meetings over the last few months ended up being too little, too late to prevent this avalanche from burying it.

As far as Cove House went, the city deeded the property to them last summer. Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans’ lease was renewed in February 2017 and goes through February 2019. During the group’s lease renewal on that meeting agenda, they were reminded verbally that the clock is ticking as far as where that group will go, eventually.

The present lease with the Saddle Club was approved by council in a February 2016 consent agenda. Things were already in play for leased properties to be sold. I ask, was this organization approached about its lease at that time, like Cove House or SG-VHV? It was no secret that a nonprofit leased the property on Boys Ranch Road.

Then the council voted in November 2016 to secure a property broker. I suspect that the $69,900 fair-market value bid for the property dated Jan. 5, 2017 came from club member Mr. Anton Pospisil. I base this on Mr. Pospisil alluding to being the “first” to bid, when he spoke during citizens’ forum. The other four bids were received in February and March.

Looking back, things always seem clearer in the rearview mirror. I am disappointed how a better solution wasn’t found—for the city selling this property, receiving fair market value for its sale to benefit the general fund, while at the same time allowing a nonprofit to conduct its affairs where it has for more than 20 years. I think we all coulda, woulda, shoulda done things differently. 

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