Beyond the public comments mentioned in an earlier post, the ramifications of the Edmonds City Council’s decision to make a $1.1 million offer on the vacant Skippers restaurant property touched many aspects of the council agenda Tuesday night – from how to fund the purchase to the “due diligence” steps that should be taken before the purchase is finalized.
At the request of Council President Steve Bernheim, City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Brian McIntosh presented a summary of options the council could pursue if a decision were made to develop the .37-acre parcel into a park, as some council members have suggested.
According to McIntosh, the predominant state grant funding program for parks is the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program, which is administered by the state Recreation & Conservation Office. This grant program generally requires the city to provide a 50-percent matching funds, which would come from the city’s Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) fund. The selection process takes about a year, he added, and if the grant is received, the property would be locked in for use as a park “in perpetuity,” he added: “It cannot be ‘bought out,’ resold or the park use changed in any way.”
The Skippers property would only be eligible for the “Local Parks” category of the grant program, which requires that a specific outdoor recreation park need and use be identified. Landscaped areas, community centers, concessionaire buildings, environmental learning centers, gyms, and covered pools or rinks do not qualify, although walkways and paths as part of a bigger park project would be included, McIntosh said. However, the city would have to convince the evalution team “that this property is contiguous with the existing waterfront parks and an expansion or continuation of them,” which could be a challenge given the separation created by the railroad tracks and Railroad Avenue/Main Street. ”
For a list of evaluation criteria and other grant program restrictions, you can read McIntosh’s presentation here (click on the April 27 council agenda and then on “Funding and Grant Options for Skippers Property”).
In terms of “due diligence” activities the council should follow prior to finalizing the Skippers purchase, Stephen Clifton, Community Services and Economic Development Director, made a report outlining five recommended tasks and the associated costs involved. These included:
– A Council directive authorizing the Mayor to execute a contract to appraise the property. The amount of the base appraisal contract is $4,000. A peer review would also be required to address potential grant requirements, at an additional cost of $1,500, Clifton said.
– Council authorization of a contract to perform a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment of the site, at a cost of $2,200, to evaluate the property for recognized environmental conditions. These conditions include “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products under conditions that indicate an existing or past release, or threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures, soil, ground water, or surface water on the property. ”
– A feasibility study that may involve a public process to evaluate potential uses for subject property, and to better understand the costs associated with the development of the property for public or public/private uses. Due to the short purchase and sale agreement feasibility time frames, such a study will require the assistance of a consultant, at a cost of $25,000 to $50,000, Clifton said.
– A special counsel letter of engagement, recommended to assist the council as it considers financing options and costs, including 1) potential future restrictions on use or ability to resell if economic circumstances require and 2)what the public process and eventual council decision must include if the council wants to keep the option of development via a public/public or public/private partnership. It’s estimated that this activity could add another $50,000 to $75,000 on to the costs of the feasibility study, making that total close to $100,000.
-City Council direction. “The Mayor, City staff and the City Attorney are requesting City Council give direction on a public process,” Clifton said. “If the majority of the council wants to pursue developing the land as a park, “the process will be relatively straight forward given the City’s current Comprehensive Plan provisions,” he said. “If there is a desire to keep the door open on some form of partnership to assist in funding development or create a mix of use on the site, the feasibility and bond counsel processes will be more complex.”
Whether the council will proceed with the idea of park development for the Skippers parcel is unclear. Council and community comment about that concept was mixed Tuesday night, with some thinking thinking it was a good idea and others questioning the wisdom of creating a park surrounded by several lanes of traffic and a railroad — especially when several nice waterfront park parcels are located nearby.
Several of the councilmembers who approved the property purchase offer two weeks ago came to their own defense during the meeting. “I’m here to say we are going to look at it,” said Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. “It doesn’t mean we are going to purchase it.” Fraley-Monillas added that she resents “the spin that’s being used” regarding how the potential purchaseÂ may affect city staffing. “Nobody is saying we are going to cut the staff if we purchase the property,” she said.
Fraley-Monillas also responded to criticism that the council should have a plan for developing the property before purchasing it. “I think it’s up to the citizens of the city to make the decision,” she said.
As mentioned previously, the council will consider a counter offer to its $1.1 million proposal during executive session in council chambers at 9 a.m.Friday morning, with a public session immediately following to take action.