City to purchase properties

| May 20, 2019 | Reply

The city is purchasing these buildings and all the property around it from Van Alstyne ISD.

Story and photo by Mary Jane Farmer

Van Alstyne Mayor Steve Riley opened the first of several meetings Tuesday night (May 14, 2019) with the City Council, acting as the Zoning Board of Adjustments, voting on a request for variance. A resident asked to allow for a residential back yard to be less than five feet from the lot line and for an accessory structure located closer than 15 feet to the house. This house is at 448 North Main. No one spoke up either for or against the request. The ZBA approved it unanimously, the ZBA adjourned and the regular City Council meeting began.

Council members Ryan Neal, Marla Butler, Robert Jaska were present along with Mayor Riley, with Council member Lee Thomas absent.

The Council adjourned into executive session to discuss several items, including the Mantua Development and the purchase of properties to be used for city facilities and parks, according to the agenda.

About 30 minutes later, they reconvened in open session. Other items on the night’s agenda are reported separately here.

At several recent meetings, also following discussions in executive session, the Council approved that City Manager Lane Jones look into land purchases. He has been doing that, and found four that could be of advantage to the city during this time of growth. These are the property owned by the Van Alstyne ISD and formerly used as its administration building, before that it was the elementary school, and has an historical marker in front depicting it was the original college property; about 10 empty acres between Dallas and Kelly streets now owned by the First Baptist Church; the Railcar Park on South Main owned by the Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce; and, farther north and also paralleling the railroad tracks, the empty lots between Van Alstyne Parkway and Jefferson Streets, owned by S6 Ranches. These last two are designated to be used for downtown parking lots, the uses of the first two have not yet been finalized.

First in the order of business was a presentation to the Council and the public regarding the status of the city’s financial situation. The money necessary for these purchases will not, according to presenter Jim Sabonis of Hilltop Securities, make no differences in the taxable assessed value nor increase the city’s Interest & Sinking Rate of $0.1205. He showed, too, that the city’s TAV has increased from $155,249,590 in 2009 to its current $292,933,177 rate of 2018. Also, he showed that the city’s tax rate has lowered from $0.65 in 2009 to its current $0.596 of 2018.

“It’s a modest plan based on our resources,” Sabonis said.

The first order of business was to approve the tax and revenue certificates of obligation for an approximate $1,205,000 to cover the costs of these purchases. That was approved unanimously. The time frame for this process shows that the city must give public notice twice during May of this intent. At the July 9 meeting, the results of the loan request will be presented to City Council, and, should the process continue to be successful, the funds are expected to be delivered to the city about August 7.

The total costs for these properties, individually broken out, are S6 Ranches, $170,000; Chamber of Commerce, $46,000; the ISD property, $525,000; and the church property $390,000. There will also be figured in $250,000 for planning, engineering and architectural work and $84,000 for the cost of issuance.

Speaking against the purchases was resident Teddie Ann Salmon, who said she is “Hoping it is not a done deal. This is the second time the church property has been presented for purchase. Yet there are no for-sale signs on the property.” She also pointed out that the school district is planning a move to the west side of U.S. 75 for its new possible high school site, yet the city is not considering property on that same side. She also expressed her belief that the city’s use of the property belonging now to the church will depreciate the property values of the homes in that area. “Sometimes a bargain is not always a bargain.”

Suzon Crowell also spoke out against the purchase of those 10 acres on Kelly Lane and against the proposed purchase of the ISD property. “We don’t have the money to repair what we already have. We are looking at expanding our debt, but not for improvement.” She said, “I ask that the city reconsider spending $1.2 million of our money on these purposes.”

The purchase of all four properties plus the certificates of obligation were approved, individually and unanimously, following the discussions.

 

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