CASPER, Wyo. — The sale of some former Plains Furniture properties in Casper’s Old Yellowstone District has failed to cross the city council’s final hurdle.
The council voted 4-4 on the final sale of the properties to FLAG Development, LLC for $500,000 during their Tuesday, Oct. 15 meeting.
Councilman Steve Freel abstained from the vote. The tie means the sale failes to move forward.
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Their decision would have authorized the mayor and city manager to complete steps needed to close the deal.
Casper Mayor Charlie Powell said that the city’s history with the properties has been “convoluted.” This article shows a synopsis of this history since 2012. Powell said that the city may have paid too much for the properties initially. However, that allowed the city to protect the historic nature of the buildings.
He added that he thought the properties being unoccupied was not a benefit to either the city or the public.
Eric Ruckle reminded the council that David Street Station faced vocal opposition when it was being proposed. He said that since then, DSS has done great things for the community.
He said there were multiple benefits to FLAG’s proposal.
“It sends a message where we are going as a community,” Ruckle said.
He added that it could attract more developers.
“It leads other people to make similar decisions,” he said.
Ruckle added that the proposal could also attract people to move to the community.
“I am in favor of it because it brings in mixed-use,” Mike Stepp said.
Dennis Steensland spoke against the proposal due to the fact that city would lose money.
“Bottom line is, we’re financing it with taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
Ashby Construction owner David Kelley also spoke against the sale. Ashby submitted a proposal in the city’s first round of proposals to sell the properties.
He said the city was considering selling the properties at too low of a cost and criticized the city waiving some landfill fees under the proposal.
“The city is wasting a huge amount of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I don’t blame FLAG for asking.”
Councilman Mike Huber asked how long Kelley thought the city should sit on the properties, waiting around for a higher purchase price.
Kelley said there should be a formula to figure that out, but he didn’t know how to personally calculate that off-hand.
He also pointed out the the city might be setting a precedent for selling too low on future deals.
Councilman Bob Hopkins said he thought the proposal would generate about $40,000 per year in property taxes for the city.
“I think this project is kind of a watershed project,” he added, pointing out that it could bring people downtown.
Councilman Ken Bates said FLAG’s design was “amazing and beautiful.” But he said he’s been against this proposal “since day one” due to the city standing to lose money on the project.
“Losing the amount of money that we are going to lose is wrong,” he said. “It is a disservice to every citizen and beyond.”
Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson said he was against the city ever purchasing the properties, thinking that the city would end up in just such a situation they face now.
He said he didn’t think the city would ever get a price that would exceed what they purchased it for.
Councilman Steve Cathey said he had also voted against the city purchasing the property.
He said that value on the property could increase as the State Office Building project gets underway.
Cathey added that the initial round of proposals had been rejected because the proposals were below appraised values for the properties.
Councilman Ray Pacheco said he had been a no-vote on the last round but said he was in support of the sale now because he didn’t think the offered sale price would go up. He also said the project would be good for the downtown.
Huber said he was disappointed the city hadn’t received more proposals. He also expressed skepticism for appraisals.
Councilwoman Khrystyn Lutz said that the market should determine the value rather than an appraiser.
Bates brought up that council members are facing future elections and the decision could impact those.
Huber said he makes decisions on what is best rather than on chasing future election wins.
The properties involved in the proposed sale had an appraised value of about $1.1 or $1.2 million.
A memo from City Attorney John Henley and Community Development Director Liz Becher acknowledged that the city stood to lose money on the deal. The city paid $3 million in 2016 for the former Plains building and some surrounding properties not included in this deal.
FLAG co-owner Brandon Daigle explained their proposed development on Tuesday.
FLAG’s vision was to turn the following properties into a housing and office space called “The Nolan”:
- Livery building and some additional land to the south
- South parking lot, south of the Plains building
- The three buildings in the Plains complex
Selecting the name “The Nolan” for the site would honor the properties original history, Daigle said.
Their plans included up to 11 market-rate loft townhouses, an open-air courtyard and 8,200 square feet office space.
FLAG also looked to build seven three-story market-rate rowhouses in the south parking lot area. The Livery Stable would be demolished and converted into a private parking lot.
Daigle said that FLAG wanted to emphasize and preserve historic elements such as bow-string trusses and stained glass in the existing buildings.
“We looked at this in multiple lights,” he added.
FLAG considered proposing different redevelopment options than those they ended up landing on, according to Daigle.
The final purchase agreement saw some changes before council rejected it.
The initial agreement would have waived land fill fees associated with the demolition and construction of the site. The proposed final agreement would have only waived these fees up to $10,000 following an amendment from Cathey.
Hazardous material land fill fees would have been excluded.
The other change is that the city would not sell a public parking lot north of the former KaLark’s building for 10 years after the sale, which replaced a “right-of-first refusal” section which would have given FLAG the first right to purchase the parking lot should the city wish to sell it within five years.
“It would be an open, public area for the next ten years,” City Manager Carter Napier said.
Cathey said he had a problem with this section since other developers may be interested in purchasing the parking lot. Huber expressed agreement with Cathey’s position.
Napier said that development needs of not only the proposed Nolan project but other possible development in the area would all benefit from keeping that lot public.
Huber asked what the chances of some developer looking to purchase that lot for a high price.
“Incredibly remote,” Napier said.
The city’s process to sell the properties has been a drawn-out process.
City staff omitted one of the lots involved in the sale when they published an announcement of the sale last month, pushing it back to Oct. 15.
In March, the city council rejected two proposals they’d received to sell the properties because they thought the offers were too low relative to the properties’ appraised value.
Those proposals came from FLAG Development and from Ashby Construction, LLC.
The city council then opened up a new request for proposals on the properties. FLAG submitted the only proposal.
The council entered into an agreement with FLAG Development, owned by Daigle and Kevin Hawley, in July to work toward the sale of the properties.