Important items on the agenda at City Council on June 21.

There are several important items on the agenda for Tuesday's Council meeting. I am using my 3 minutes to speak on behalf of moving forward with the Vandaveer land swap deal. I don't have any remaining minutes to talk about how much I support the proposed moratorium on short term rentals. If any brave soul would like to speak up about that matter, I would be happy to share what I know with you. I have done lots of research and obviously I am passionate about the topic. (Note - Denver just passed an ordinance that says ONLY primary residences can be used for short term rentals. That is huge!) I am crafting my pro-Vandaveer development 3 minute talk and will post it here before the meeting Tuesday. If anyone else wants to chime in, I would be happy to share what I have learned from attending a bunch of NRCDC meetings over the years.

I think that our Council has a HUGE opportunity to use Vandaveer for creating LOTS of affordable housing. You can put up to 18 homes on an acre of land. Vandaveer is 200 acres. Think of what could be done if Council sets aside 20 acres for this kind of development. That could be up to 360 homes! What if they set aside 40 or 50 acres! HUGE!

For those of you who haven't been following this discussion, here are the facts as I know them in a nutshell.

The City bought 200 acres of land called the Vandaveer Ranch about 10 years ago. The City works with a non profit entity called the NRCDC, who they tasked with the job of figuring out the best use of this land. The NRCDC built the Natural Resource building on Highway 50 (which turns a profit) and they sold some land to Pinto Barn. The Vandaveer land on the south side of the highway (where Gentleman of the Road was held last year) is ripe for development except for the fact that there are few to no utilities or roads available on site. A local company called LCI has offered to provide the required utilities (water, gas, sewer, electric and a road through the property) in exchange for 40 acres of land. It is hard to sell undeveloped land, but once the infrastructure is in place, the City/NRCDC can sell the remaining land for lots of money. There are several local folks who build houses (myself included) who have expressed interest in building on Vandaveer. This means local jobs in the construction industry and lots of sales tax to collect. And more homes to live in. They City/NRCDC can choose to put a big chunk of land under a Housing Authority that will make sure that the land is used to build affordable/attainable housing that will be deed restricted so that it will remain attainable forever. (This is what I am going to advocate for on Tuesday.) There is a group called the Belmont Corporation that want to build 60 apartments at Vandaveer. 48 of these units will be set aside for people who don't earn much money. These people are some of the nice folks in town who sell you groceries, cook your burgers, run your ski lifts, and make $8.00 an hour. Imagine living on $8.00 an hour. That is $16,000 a year if you work full time year round, which most people in this range are not able to do. The Council is going to vote on the land swap deal on Tuesday. LCI has said that they will withdraw their offer if Council doesn't move ahead soon. Without the LCI infrastructure, Belmont cannot move forward with their project.

There is a lot of discussion about how we got here, but here we are. We can either complain about what has happened before and point fingers at previous Councils, or we can move forward. I want us to move forward and build some homes for our folks. This is a huge opportunity for the Council to leave a lasting POSITIVE legacy.

Please, if you comment, don't say mean things about individuals on the City Council or the NRCDC board members or bring up arcane minutiae that no one understands. If any of the above is factually incorrect, please chime in.

And if you want some help crafting a nifty 3 minute presentation about the LCI land swap or moratorium on Short Term Rentals, let me know.


    There may be other comments on this topic on our Facebook page.

  • edited June 2016

    1) The City government has no business being a real estate developer. A tremendous amount of resources, staff time and tax revenue has already been thrown at Vandaveer and the NRCDC. That money and staff time had a large opportunity cost. It could have been spent:

    • developing (and funding!) a low-money-down loan guarantee program for home buyers in the City;

    • rewriting the code to allow for smaller and more ADUs to be built with lower tap fees, on existing properties in the City already served by infrastructure;

    • designing codes to allow accessory apartments and lock-offs, on existing properties in the City already served by infrastructure; or,

    • designing incentives for small multi-unit developments on empty parcels such as the one behind Tenderfoot Health Collective.

    2) The Pinto Barn land was sold for $300,000 by the NRCDC, and the money went directly to them. I have copies of the closing documents. No regular public financial documents ever disclosed that transaction. Until I saw the Settlement Statement, I did not fully realize the City had granted the Pinto Barn land to the NRCDC.

    3) Affordable housing was never discussed for Vandaveer, until last year, when members of the NRCDC Board began tossing it out like a bone. At first it was a vague idea. Then there was discussion of 18 units. Then it was 40. Now you talk of 200 to 360. Explain exactly how that is going to happen. What's the plan? Just saying it doesn't make it so.

    4) Lowry would get the best 40 acres on the property. High and dry, with the best views and background trees, on the parcel west of CR 107. I walked the whole western part of the property the other day. For approximately 80 to 100 yards south of the Little Arkansas, it is all beautiful flowering wetlands under 4 to 6 inches of water right now. Yet the NRCDC Board has platted this land as a place to build.

    5) The LCI deal has no contingencies in the event the Belmont deal doesn't pan out. I have carefully watched the language of those who speak about the Belmont deal and who support the LCI deal. They speak of "possibility" of affordable housing if the LCI deal happens, not certainty. Read Walt Harder's letter from the last week. The Belmont deal is extremely speculative and is being disingenuously dangled in front of people who don't understand all the realities, in order to gain unwarranted support.

    6) There is right now an empty lot of approximately 4 acres, east of the USFS building, with CR 105 offering an excellent bike route into town. Put Belmont affordable housing there. Now. Deal done.

    7) The NRCDC Board so fouled up the development of the USFS Building that they had to grant the whole 160 acres of Vandaveer land on the south side of Hwy 50 to obtain financing for the one single building. The loan was obtained from a bank at which another NRCDC Board member is a director. Nor could they use the 63-20 concept that they spent so much money crafting, because they didn't have a lease that covered the whole loan term. So they got 10-year financing with a balloon payment. The City is on the hook for the balloon payment to the tune of about $3.4 million in 2023. The NRCDC'S development options are now limited because all the land presently secures the USFS building loan. They've got nothing more to offer.

    Note also that the only reason the RV dump station was moved was to complete unfinished water and sewer infrastructure across the USFS lot. The NRCDC was supposed to have constructed that infrastructure per then-existing land use code, but it ran out of money. So we paid for it.

    8) The NRCDC Board is, and long has been, in over its head. One former councilman and NRCDC Board member used to literally state, "Well let's do SOMETHING, even if it's wrong!" The present LCI deal is rushed, not well thought out, and conceptual at best, i.e. - the development drawings in next week's packet don't even show street names - CR 107, CR 109, US HWY 50.

    9) Right now, city employees clean and maintain the USFS building and its grounds. The City subsidizes the landlord obligations of the NRCDC. The lease would not "make money" without this City assistance.

    10) Affordable housing on Vandaveer would be great, unless the same affordable housing can be done elsewhere for less money. I believe it can, more quickly, and for a lot less money. A few people's egos and financial interests have gotten in the way. They want you not to think of all the other more economically efficient and quicker options available.

    11) The strongest proponents of Vandaveer development are developers and realtors who want the City to subsidize the development for them, as well as a couple of businessmen who want the AHRA offices to depart from W. Sackett for their own reasons. I suggest that the AHRA across from the city's main boat ramp is just perfect.

    12) The NRCDC Board received an offer from a potential buyer six or so months back. He made a reasonable opening offer, on the low end, for the whole parcel, and they utterly failed to negotiate with him. They offended him and chased him away. They thereafter promptly entered into letters of intent with two other smaller, local developers, though, who are strong supporters of the Administrator. The potential buyer the NRCDC Board chased away has spent his life developing large parcels of land and wanted to do this project from his semi-retirement in Buena Vista. He also would have created lots for building that would create construction jobs and sales taxes. The city's land use code would required him to develop some affordable housing. He had the expertise and resources to do the job.

    13) Three members of the NRCDC Board engaged in blatantly illegal conflicts of interest by working for or representing the City while promoting and voting for resolutions and actions that befitted the NRCDC. In March of 2015, the city attorney was finally forced to publicly state that what they were doing was illegal, and two city councilman promptly resigned. One city employee has stubbornly continued with this conflict of interest, to the employees own peril.

    14) The City would be a much calmer, happier place if the City government engaged in the business of governing, instead of developing while hiding the facts, expenses, and financial irregularities that are taking and have taken place out at Vandaveer and the NRC. They also treat the city's taxpayers like a bottomless money pit. We are not. There are practical limits to what we can do.

    IMO, with reasonable basis in fact, and following a heck of a lot of research.

  • edited June 2016

    One more thing. Paige Judd, I appreciate and admire your enthusiasm and good intent and believe you want to do best for the city. Thank you for taking your time to raise these and other issues.

  • Paige, I look forward to hearing your comments on Tuesday. I can only hope that the council will consider your comments.

    Jeff, The city is NOT proposing it be a land developer, just the opposite. The city wants a developer to move utilities under the road and a developer(s) to build affordable housing. However some city council members want the land returned to the city and have the city pay for the movement of the utilities (at a considerably higher cost since the profit margin has to be added to the bid). How many developers will put the time, money and energy into a valid proposal knowing that the voter approval is required. The last developer proposal around 2007 fell through because of the economic downturn. I don't recall any uproar about Vanderveer at that time

    I believe Vandaveer opponents' primary reason is to require a vote of the people before any action is taken. Of course in this supposed age of transparency, the CAGers, etal will not say that. Instead, let's micromanage everything , eliminate representational democracy, eliminate any assistance, monetary or otherwise, to the businesses and citizens of the city, and limit government to minimal fire and police protection ( if that).

    The City would be a much calmer, happier place if the Council hired qualified experts and then listed to them, instead of a few complainers.

  • To clarify, In Jeff's response he wrote, "9) Right now, city employees clean and maintain the USFS building and its grounds. The City subsidizes the landlord obligations of the NRCDC. The lease would not "make money" without this City assistance. " leading one to believe that the city spends money on the NRCDC.

    The city has a contract with the NRCDC for maintenance amounting to about $1,000 per month paid to the city. Jeff knows that. CAG has submitted open records requests in the past for the invoices the city prepares to bill the NRCDC. What other misinformation has Jeff and the CAGers disseminated?

    Sorry I can't be more positive when it comes to CAG or whatever they call themselves today.

  • Just to be clear, I think that the 48 affordable units at Belmont are just a drop in the bucket. With the right incentives (cheap land) I think that local developers can build housing for the people in our town who are in the 75-100% AMI range. With more incentives, local developers can build housing going into even lower AMI ranges. I think that the City/NRCDC should sell some acres at market rate to those developers who love to build $400k and up homes, and use the proceeds to subsidize some land for developers who want to build homes in the <$200k range. And cheap land for apartments. There is plenty of land to sell, and plenty of demand for market priced land WITH INFRASTRUCTURE.

    Until there is infrastructure, you have a very limited pool of buyers. Most developers only want to buy land when it is ready to go, meaning they can start to build soon after purchase. Few can buy land with no infrastructure and hope that it is in place within a reasonable amount of time.

    We can always wait another 10 years and hope that a better offer comes along. I am sure those who are desperate for a decent place to live at a reasonable rate would love that solution.

  •   I appreciate all the effort and research done to contribute here--- it's the discussion that is often missing in this enterprise of representative democracy we are attempting to make a success.  too many want to simply get what they want and skip the discussion.  IMO the majority who are involved really are very competitive and don't care about another opinion.  MANY citizens decide to stay uninvolved because they don't have enough time and resources to fight, and they realize the aggressive people will push them out anyway= we end up w the loudest people on each side who tend to be relatively affluent --and it's too bad.
       I agree a lot w Jeff ---I think government should do less as a rule instead of more.  Govt should have the amount of things going on that the average person can reasonably keep track of, instead of requiring huge amounts of time in order to know what is going on.  Less is more--- and it's also ok to do nothing.  DOn't do anything w/out pretty clear consensus!   Govt doesn't do much very well and that is just fine.   Even OBama said (in a speech) that the first job of government is to make sure its service is needed due to private sector inability to do the job.   He knows that govt tends to grow and feed itself so that departments get bigger and specialists create manufactured scarcity so they are in increased demand, precluding most rural people from jobs and essentially involvement.  It's crazy and creates a huge amount of resentment toward government.. We now have Trump as a result of that resentment.
       Lately we have in Salida a lot of culturally urban people who like the govt to do a lot --and know how to manipulate the system so they get what they want out of government.  Most of the people who grew up in Salida or Chaffee county are rural culturally and they don't want the govt to do much for them.  Rural culture is very independent.   Urban culture people generally  like more government and they like to be aggressive about getting what they want out of it.   We are seeing the clash of those two cultures.   Neither is right or wrong.   I understand rural culture better, myself, so I want the list of things the city is involved in to be very small.  I want people who work for the government to have previously created jobs and paid payroll taxes.  I want them to have experienced failure and worked hard making little money.   Now we have specialists who never work in the private sector and have no idea or interest in creating jobs and taking the accountability that requires.  Professors who are publicly subsidized, city staff who have never worked outside of government and want to pretend they know everything, etc etc..   What I see is a giant echo chamber where they exist in agreement with the like-minded.  We are seeing some of the repercussion of that phenomenon in Salida.   We are reorganizing as a result.
       Wynton Marsalis told a story about playing jazz early in his career==== Wayne Shorter (sax) scolded him to "let someone else be wrong for a while" when he complained about something during a gig.   We need to let everyone in Salida have a voice and stop our tantrums wanting to be right and get our way all the damn time.   It would'nt serve ANY purpose to recall the recently elected , for example.   For those who now feel stymied b/c the city is not moving forward in the exact way they imagine it should=   Hey   "let someone else be wrong for a while"   You might like it!
    thanks--- good job Paige, Jeff, Marshall and all who put the time in here.

    Mike Pollock

  • Let's just say that the June 21 City Council meeting was another weird one. I will keep my comments in this post mostly on the topic of the proposed land swap that was on the agenda. The NRCDC has been working for almost a year to negotiate a land swap with LCI. The beauty of a land swap was that utilities would be installed at Vandaveer Ranch with no financial outlay from the City. It is my understanding that the NRCDC has been working under the assumption for years that they were to dispose of the Vandaveer Ranch to the benefit of the people of Salida WITHOUT spending City money. Last month City Administrator Dara McDonald asked Council if this mission had changed. Council did not indicate that there was a change in the plan. I was really surprised this week at the City Council meeting to hear that LCI had proposed a cash offer for the 40 acres at Vandaveer that they were to receive in the land swap. If the NRCDC/City Council approves this transaction, the following will happen: 1. They will have sold land to LCI for less than they paid for it per acre. 2. I believe they will have to sell land at this rate to anyone else who comes forward. I know lots of people who would like to buy land at $10,000 per acre. I would certainly be interested. 3. Most of the sale proceeds will go to pay down the debt on the property, which won't leave enough cash to put in the infrastructure. A straight sale of the property doesn't seem to accomplish the purported goals of the land swap deal, namely the construction of the infrastructure required to open up the development of the Vandaveer ranch for development, and specifically does not make the commitment to infrastructure that is required for the Belmont low income housing project to go forward. Now, to get even weirder, all six members of Council indicated that they may be interested in having the City foot the bill for providing the infrastructure required to get the ball rolling. Note that I said ALL SIX. I know there are vocal people in our community who have said that they don't think the public should pay to develop Vandaveer. Now all six think it's okay? That is a seismic shift. But this Council has been spending our reserves like crazy since they took office. They have spent twice as much on the audit as in the past (using the new auditor they selected after the last election) and have been spending a lot with the new lawyer (using the new attorney they selected after the last election). According to the discussion at the last two meetings, some of these expenditures were not brought before Council but were decided upon by one or two individuals on Council and/or the Mayor. And now they want to pull another $500k out of reserves to develop Vandaveer after previous Councils have not done so? I am not saying that I think it is a bad idea for the City to put in the infrastructure, I am just reeling from the inconsistencies between former and current Councils. And as a taxpayer I am very concerned with the idea of spending so much of our reserves. Many of our Council members ran for office on platforms of transparency and accountability and fiscal responsibility. Now I hear that one member of this governing body has instructed the new attorney to do work without consulting Council (having the city attorney draft the paperwork that was used to remove two members from the NRCDC board), and another member can change the scope of work and the cost of the auditors without consulting the rest of Council. The budget is the responsibility of the full Council, and it is my understanding that the full body is expected to decide on expenditures, not one or two individuals or the Mayor. I still really, really want Vandaveer to be opened up to build homes for the workers of Salida. I fear that Council is so dysfunctional now that they are going to keep us in a holding pattern for more years, or just sell off a bunch of property at a loss for no reason that I can understand. Democracy is difficult.

  •   YES thanks Paige ---democracy is difficult and it's supposed to be that way IMO.  Oddly enough to many--- I think there are plenty of people like me who are encouraged to see democracy be difficult and for elected bodies to be quite hampered in their actions.   If they are not there is a good chance something is rotten in Denmark and the repercussions will come along later.
       I saw the 4th person today riding the wrong way in the bike lanes on 50--- more have been going the wrong way than have been going the right way, of those I have seen.   Another case of maybe a good idea, but don't shove it down people's throats cuz you are smarter than everybody else.
        As Jeff has said many times, the city has no business thinking they know how to handle Vanderveer, and I'm sure that is true.  If they get something good done with it , it will be a lucky thing. 
      Just keeping up w streets, crap, water, some public spaces and a few other things is plenty 'nuf for elected city councils to handle, and they should KISS -- keep it simple salida.
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