Longmont City Council Balks at Selling Pair of Downtown-area Properties

November 29, 2018

A stretch of vacant property is seen on the south side of Boston Avenue between Main Street and Martin Street in Longmont on Nov. 28, 2018. Longmont City Council decided not to sell the two city-owned lots south of Boston to a Boulder development company.

Longmont’s City Council has shelved, for the time being at least, a proposal to sell a pair of lower-downtown-area city-owned property to a private developer.

Lou DellaCava of DellaCava Properties, LLC, a Boulder firm, had offered to pay the city $750,000 for the two currently vacant lots on the south side of Boston Avenue between South Main and South Emery streets.

On Tuesday night, however, four of the seven council members objected to selling the city properties, a 0.86-acre parcel at 535 Boston Ave. that includes nearly 80 feet of street frontage along Main Street and 313 of street frontage along Boston, and a 0.52-acre parcel at 415 Boston Ave. that has nearly 190 feet of street frontage along Boston.

Those council members cited uncertainties about what might end up being built there and whether that development would conform to the council’s visions for the future of the Main Street corridor west of the Boston Avenue lots and the St. Vrain River corridor to the south.

Councilwoman Polly Christensen called the two lots “premiere properties” and said, “I think the city would be extremely foolish to give up this land.”

Councilman Tim Waters asked how the sale would help accomplish goals and visions the council established earlier this year in a “work plan” that emerged from its May retreat and that was adopted in October.

Among the items in that plan was for the council to work the rest of this year and during 2019 on achieving a vision that, by the year 2038, “Longmont will have a developed Main Street from Pike Road to Highway 66 and a river corridor that stretches from the Sugar Mill to the Fairgrounds, providing a vibrant economic, residential, cultural and entertainment epicenter that is sustainable and respects the natural environment.”

‘A big surprise’

Christensen said she did not see how “just selling the land to a developer accomplishes any of those goals.”

Councilwoman Marcia Martin said she shared Martin’s and Christensen’s concerns. She said the Boston Street properties could be developed to create a science and arts center.

When Councilwoman Joan Peck asked whether there was any legal reason the city had to sell the land, the city staff said no.

“I would rather keep it” and “get a developer to build what we envision this property to look like,” Peck said.

Mayor Brian Bagley and Councilwoman Bonnie Finley did not comment on the proposed sale during Tuesday night’s discussion. Councilman Aren Rodriguez was absent.

Lou DellaCava, who did not attend the council meeting, said in a Thursday telephone interview that he did not know about the council’s decision not to proceed with the sale transaction until the Times-Call contacted him by email on Wednesday for a reaction.

“This was a big surprise to me,” he said.

City staff had told the council in a memo that while DellaCava LLC does not have specific development plans for the property “at this time,” the concept the firm submitted in its purchase proposal was to combine the two Boston Avenue lots with the properties DellaCava already owns to the south, “for a combination of commercial and residential development.”

DellaCava said on Thursday that his firm, an architect and a builder were in the “very preliminary stage” of preparing a plan for a mixed residential-commercial development on the combined properties.

The firm is still willing to consider continuing to pursue buying the two lots, but “if the city doesn’t want to do it, so be it,” he said.

“There is no great big interest on our part to do something that does not match the city’s needs,” DellaCava said.

The staff reported in its memo to the council that the two Boston Avenue lots and in a 2017 announcement of Longmont’s request for proposals from interested buyers that the two Boston Avenue lots were part of a $2 million in property purchases the city made in 2008 of land it needed for right-of-way for an extension of Boston from Main to Martin Street.

The city leased the property to various tenants until construction of that extension began in 2016, and the buildings on the site were demolished as part of that road construction.

No formal vote of rejection

There was no formal Tuesday night council vote to reject the ordinance that would have authorized selling the city properties to DellaCava Properties LLC. That ordinance would require approval of five of the seven council members.

Christensen at one point moved that the council table the ordinance and the accompanying purchase and sale agreement indefinitely, but that died for a lack of any council member second her motion.

Mayor Bagley then announced that meant that any council action on the ordinance and agreement “is done” and couldn’t be approved “unless someone votes it back on” to that night’s agenda or a future meeting agenda.

DellaCava said the city approached him about whether he’d be interested in buying the two lots.

The city issued a request for purchase proposals last year and got three.

Assistant City Manager Shawn Lewis said in a Thursday email that the other proposals were from The Michaels Organization, a Boulder-based company that offered $735,000 for the parcels and proposed a mixed-use development plan, and Niwot-based Nova Investments, which proposed paying $500,000 to $750,000 — depending on negotiations — and proposed a retail and commercial development with possible multifamily residential.

The staff said in their memo for Tuesday’s meeting that they had selected DellaCava’s as the preferred proposal because he’d offered the highest purchase price and because of his ownership of the property to the south of the two city parcels.

Last year, city officials said that based on real estate appraisals made earlier in 2017, Longmont had put the “minimum-bid” market value of the two lots at a total of $735,000.

However, Christensen said on Tuesday night that she thought the $750,000 DellaCava had proposed paying the city for the parcels “is too little.”

If Longmont were to sell the properties, which were bought with money in the city budget’s Street Improvement Fund, the revenue would be returned to that budget account.

Said Lewis: “Staff will be discussing options with City Council in the future, particularly as funds from the sale of this property — which were purchased using the City’s Street Fund — are needed to complete trail and roadway relocation components of the Resilient St. Vrain Creek Project. Some options may be to undertake a new RFP (request for proposals) process or work with Mr. DellaCava to further refine his plans to align with City Council’s vision.”

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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