If the baseball park were used for work force housing, the workers would have just a short walk to the downtown area. New baseball fields could be erected on Vandeveer with adequate parking, a safe distance from roadways and with room to expand.
Homogeny - très Américain.
Why has Vandaveer been around for so long but nothing done with it? Is it a crappy lot? Does the City own it outright? Whatever the case I hope the City doesn't get too desperate to build there or anywhere. We don't need to prostitute ourselves out. Let things happen right and in their own time.
Vandaveer is hard to develop for many reasons. One is debt. The NRCDC Board took out a loan to build the Natural Resource Building. The building cost over $4 million and the rest of the property is held as collateral. I have heard at NRCDC meetings and at City Council meetings that as other parcels of the ranch are sold off, a large percentage of the proceeds goes to paying down the debt, which means proceeds can't be used to build infrastructure. Once basic infrastructure is in place, the property can be developed. I have heard that it will take about $500,000 to get utilities to the center of the Vandaveer Ranch on the south side of 50. Last week I wrote to all the City Council members suggesting that they sell the Natural Resource Building, thus greatly reducing debt and allowing for some flexibility with developing the rest of the property. Only one person responded to me. The land is beautiful. You can see for yourself by walking it. You can access it from the path by Hampton Inn or the gates at 104 and 107. Part of the property is too wet for building due to the Little Arkansas, but the master plan has always shown a park along the river. The other stumbling block to developing the property is the weird relationship between the NRCDC board and City Council. The NRCDC board was created to help the City craft something great at Vandaveer. Recently they proposed a land swap with LCI, who would install the infrastructure needed to get the ball rolling in exchange for getting some vacant land at Vandaveer. No money would change hands, the infrastructure would increase the value of the land, and the bank was okay with it. City Council killed this deal, partly at the behest of the City's attorney. Since this spring Council has removed Walt Harder, Ray Kitson, and Dara McDonald from the NRCDC Board (but was not willing to remove a different board member at the behest of the NRCDC board itself). Last week Susan Dempsey Hughes, Tim Glenn and Bob Grether resigned. The NRCDC board cannot have a quorum now, so who knows what will happen at the meeting on Tuesday July 12. If the City calls for volunteers to be on the Board, we need to get some good folks on there. I think the majority of the City Council would like to dissolve the NRCDC board and sell off the ranch to the highest bidder (who will not be from Salida) and be done with it. But that's just my theory. This City Council continues to surprise and disappoint me.
"The NRCDC board was created to help the City craft something great at Vandaveer."
Paige, I appreciate your ongoing good commentary on the Salida Citizen forum but respectfully disagree with the foregoing statement.
When the city first purchased the Vandaveer Ranch and its water rights on June 30, 2004, the Ranch was comprised of about 191 acres. About 31 acres were on the northeast side of Highway 50, and the remaining 160 acres were on the southwest side. The USFS building sits on part of that 31 acres. The Gentlemen of the Road concert was held on part of the 160 acres.
The original publicly-stated reason to create the Natural Resource Center Development Corporation (NRCDC) was to develop the Natural Resource Center (NRC). The NRCDC was incorporated on December 18, 2009. The City gave the 31 acres to the NRCDC, of which about half was eventually sold to Pinto Barn for $300,000. The NRC was to have been confined to the other half of that original 31 acres. That "other half" is the land that includes and surrounds the present USFS building.
The original vision for the NRC was to have state and federal agencies (CO DOW, AHRA, USFS, etc) move out to the NRC for a "campus" experience. What a "campus experience" is and why it would have benefitted the city, who knows? You'll be hard pressed to find any clearly stated explanation to those questions anywhere in all the discussions, minutes, presentations and reports re: the NRCDC/NRC generated over the past decade. The original proponents of the idea (i.e. Tim Glenn) have never really explained it.
Anyway, as things went on in 2010 - 2013, we had city council members, city staff and a city attorney active on both entities, i.e. - leading the City while working for the NRCDC. Therefore, the NRCDC Board found it easy to (and indeed did) access and use city money and resources to assist its development schemes and also to "backstop" its development errors***, all the while hiding the use of money and resources and claiming that it wasn't happening. The "working both sides" arrangement grossly violated state ethical statutes (24-18-101 et seq), as well as state constitutional provisions (Art. XI, Sec. 2) prohibiting local governments from providing aid to private corporations. The arrangement also created numerous cascade effects in other areas of city government, in terms of policies, attitudes and procedures. Some members of council and staff, with the assistance and encouragement of the former city attorney, began to feel entitled to do as they pleased, irrespective of applicable laws and long-established best practices.
The issues discussed in the foregoing paragraph are the source of all the strife and conflict that has occurred in the city over the last 5 or 6 years, IMO.
***Probably the biggest error of development was the NRCDC Board's inability to complete the USFS building using just the 16 acres it then owned, as well as a stable and certain lease payment schedule obtained from the USFS, as collateral for a bank to lend it sufficient money. The USFS would only enter into a "10-years for certain" lease, and that wasn't enough to satisfy the bank to grant permanent financing to the NRCDC Board to construct the USFS Building. .
So the NRCDC Board trapped itself, and it had to have the City give it the whole remaining 160 acres of the original Vandaveer Ranch purchase in order to collateralize the loan. The City authorized the transfer at a City Council meeting on October 18, 2011. At that time, former Councilmen Yerkey and Baker and former city attorney Hanlon were all actively working for the NRCDC. Hanlon's law firm was then owed $50,000 by the NRCDC Board. If the transfer of the remaining 160 acres hadn't gone through, Hanlon's firm would not have been paid that money. This illustrates the reason for the ethical statues prohibiting council and staff from "working both sides."
So since October, 2011 all of the 160 acres has been encumbered by a bank lien, and the Board's ability to develop it has been incredibly constrained. The former administrator, former councilmen, the just-removed president of the NRCDC, non-resident realtors and developers, interested businesspersons, etc, have all been trying to get the City to rescue the NRCDC Board from its own mistakes, without acknowledging that it will cost the City a lot of money. Over the last three years, the NRCDC Board has literally been flailing around trying to figure out how to do something, anything. It would be good to see the flailing end.
The City should never have found itself in this situation, and it never would have, but for prolonged and ongoing conflicts of interests and violations of ethical statutes and other laws.
Know that the NRCDC has a balloon payment of $3.4 million due in 2023. In reality, we (you and I, as city taxpayers) have a balloon payment due in 2023 - the NRCDC can barely keep itself alive financially.
Know also that per Councilman Brown, who is a member of the city's Audit Committee and who has been active with the new auditors, the former finance director wrote off in 2012 a $2.2 million loss to the City for money it had invested / given / loaned the NRCDC. This write-off was actively hidden from us for the past 4 years, and those who did the write-off fiercely resisted all attempts to uncover it, at great expense to the city.
$2.2 million spent 4 to 6 years ago could have funded one heck of an affordable housing project on land other than Vandaveer, right?
Jeff, as usual you know more than I do. What do you propose? You are great at bringing up historical facts and you are indeed good at it because you pay attention. What are you FOR?
Maybe the original intent of the NRCDC board was not supposed to be "to make something great" happen, but at the NRCDC meetings I have been attending over the last two years, many members of that board have been trying to find ways out of the existing quagmire and to use the property for the benefit of the citizens of Salida, especially those who work hard and can't find a decent place to live.
I would really love to know your thoughts on a path forward, Jeff.
I am for:
the adoption of a standard of measuring societal success that focuses more on happiness and contentment than Gross Domestic Product;
more recess for schoolchildren across the land;
reining in the ever-increasing and wholly unsustainable voracity of the medico – pharmacological industrial complex (The MPIC's motto: "If we make it, you must buy it!"); and,
more happy feet.
Now, as to Salida, you ask a fair question. It's been on my mind a while. I will respond.
In 7 years the Vandaveer property has a balloon payment which will probably mean Larry Smith will take ownership. Should we quit claim it over to him now and save all those payments?