Why The Rush to Sell Vandaveer?

Where is CAG when you need them? Wasn't this group all about responsible, transparent and accountable city governance? They seemed very concerned about how the city spent tax revenue so shouldn't they also be concerned over how the city disposes of assets? Yet I have not seen any indication of their outrage over the council's hasty decision to liquidate a major city asset.

By setting a quick deadline for liquidation, there is no way that the city can obtain the highest dollar amount or the best ultimate use for the Vandaveer ranch property. It seems they have already scared off one purchaser. Who wants to step up and buy land when the council has telegraphed its intent to liquidate every bit of the property within a year? This is not the way a normal and rational governmental body should work.

They seem to have manufactured a crisis so they can respond in what appears to be a preordained way. Who was knocking at the door claiming TABOR non compliance? How is it that the council is so willing to accept the opinion of an attorney, who at the outset admitted he was not knowledgeable in TABOR law, while a couple of more experienced attorneys seem to disagree that the city is in non compliance?

The council claimed that DOLA was going to 'punish' the city for non compliance, yet DOLA has repeatedly said they have nothing to do with enforcement of TABOR.

Why not slow this process down? Put out a request for proposals and see if the city can find a developer who will negotiate with the city, not just over price but over the build out? It seems many folks want to see some affordable housing and perhaps some recreational amenities. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. Our market is hot so why not make the most of it?

Something really stinks about this process and as a citizen of Salida, I feel like I am getting one put over on me. It isn't a great feeling.

If the mayor and council members are convinced that they are failing to uphold the state constitution, perhaps they should resign rather than waste a great potential asset.


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  • Absolutely the best I’ve read on the Vandaveer situation! There is nothing open and transparent about this. An amazing opportunity for meaningful long-term growth for our community is being squandered for no good reason.

  • I think that the USE of the property is at least as important as the money the City receives from the land sale. If the City demands top dollar for the land, there will be less flexibility for more affordable homes and recreation. If the City finds the RIGHT developer and sells them the land at a fair price, then the City can retire their debt and demand that the developer includes the things that are a priority for our residents. If it is done right, the residents will benefit from wise planning forever. If they sell it to the highest bidder with no strings attached, developers will build more expensive homes for people who don't live and work here full time and we will turn into an Aspen type community.

  • I agree with you Paige. My concern is that in the rush to liquidate the city will not only fail to get a reasonable price but will also loose all control over how this land is developed. I do believe that the city council has some fiduciary responsibility to the citizens to try to get a fair return. A blend of decent return and community desired outcome should be the goal.

  • edited November 2016

    "An amazing opportunity for meaningful long-term growth for our community...."

    Why is it so amazing?

    What pieces must be created / developed to make it "amazing?" Precisely what "amazing" thing(s) do you foresee? If affordable housing, what type and how many units?

    At what price comes this "amazing opportunity," and who pays it?

    Would not a private developer (constrained by a land use code that grants city much power over what happens out there) also create / develop many if not nearly all of the same pieces, thereby also leading to "meaningful long-term growth for our community....?"

    There seems to be a tremendous amount of vague "wouldn't it be great" without any precise "here's what we'll do and here's how we'll pay for it."

    That intelligent leaders in this community keep waving the phrase "affordable housing on Vandaveer" without having or presenting at least a "back of the envelope" calculation about where the money comes from to pay it is not helpful. It's sort of the reverse of a Fox News story. Lots of "sound good" to its target audience, but no real facts to back it up.

    The city has burned millions and millions of dollars on Vandaveer. It wrote off $2 million of capital loss in in Vandaveer in 2012 (presumably that portion of the original $3.5 million purchase price that paid for the land gifted to the NRCDC), but did not disclose in budget or financials so that you or I could tell. That money is gone. Right now the NRCDC is just trying to retire get out of the debt trap it got itself (and us) into, and they'll be very lucky to do so.

    Former admins, finance and community development people have also devoted significant portions of their workdays (20% - 30% is my averaged estimate, just based on amount of work product kicking up in city council packets and NRCDC minutes and meetings) for many years. We paid their salaries. We pay for janitorial and lawn care, and what the NRCDC pays the city doesn't come close to full reimbursement. In fact back in 2012 or so when NRCDC was paying about $1400 a month just for janitorial (in addition to the $1000 a month it pays the city to manage bills and finances), the janitorial firm quit, saying that it was not enough. That $1400 a month is no longer being paid, and the city has been doing cleaning since, plus the exterior grounds maintenance. All that money is gone and the longer were kept it, the more we throw at it.

    Vandaveer is an absolute money pit. The notion that the land is so attractive and valuable that the NRCDC Board is going to be able to impose conditions of development on a buyer and retire all debt carries so little weight that it borders fantasy.

    The Council has decided to cut the losses, stop the bleeding, and get Vandaveer out of our hair so that our city government can use its very limited revenues (and staff time) on things a city government should be dealing with - upgrading our water and sewer systems; seeking real affordable housing options that can be undertaken now; helping our kids, the poor and the elderly; focusing on transition to clean energy; and, helping our merchants and their workers.

    The NRCDC Board should assist the Council, not fight it. It should also get all the land listed or advertised - last I could determine (10 days or so ago), it still isn't.

  • Meaningful long-term growth refers to the conceptual draft master plan that provided a starting point to allow for coordinated development, recreation opportunities and connected community - As opposed to generic piecemeal development – big box, etc. Thanks for clarifying the CAG agenda on this. I get it, it really has nothing to do with TABOR – just a smokescreen. Wish our city leadership was just honest and transparent enough to own up to their real agenda.…

  • Jeff,

    The "we pay for" comment is, according to the two finance people during my eight years on council, from 2005-2013, due to just 50% of the sales tax revenue coming from the citizens of the city. The rest comes from the Salida suburbs and tourists. So citizens of the city are paying half of any city expense. How the rest of the sales tax revenue is broken up Oklahoma and Texas vs. Pinion Hills, as an example, is unclear.

    Our Sewer system was upgraded during my time on council to take care of loads of possible population growth, and the water system since then has tremendous excess capacity to deliver treated water.

    The land on the Vandeveer possibly could be used for something affordable. We did dodge the bullet when in 2008-2010 Courgeaux couldn't do the planned big boxes on the Vandeveer, because of the national financial difficulities , which might have helped shut down the rest of 50 as wall as downtown

  • "The Council has decided to cut the losses, stop the bleeding, and get Vandaveer out of our hair so that our city government can use its very limited revenues (and staff time) on things a city government should be dealing with...." This comment by Jeff Auxier is stating an agenda that was not brought up during the last election, if it had there would have been no CAG members elected, especially the mayor who ran on the transparency ticket. To create this artificial crisis of a Tabor violation is very low, to implement it behind the scenes and magically pass it with a quorum of CAG members is interesting. The next question is where did the instruction of the Tabor violation come from, did it come from the City Attorney Ben Kahn on his own or did it come from members of City Council or the mayor giving him direction. Thanks for the insight on the CAG agenda. Why even have City Council meetings if the decisions are already made. The last meeting on November 29th seamed to drive that point home.

  • edited December 2016

    When some people in this city walk down the street, they see a so-called "CAG member" hiding behind every tree.

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