The Hillsboro City Council approved the sale of one lot in Hillsboro Heights and an option to buy an adjoining lot during its Nov. 6 meeting.
The decisions came to a vote following a discussion about appropriate procedures for working with inquiring buyers.
Craig Dodd, who currently operates a gunshop out of a small building near Jost Fabrication in Hillsboro Heights, submitted a proposal regarding two full lots across the street from his present location, which is along Western Heights Street.
Under terms of the contract, Dodd would purchase Lot, Block 3 for $7,000. The price includes the cost of utility hookups that were installed by the city five years ago to accommodate Prairie View’s move to Hillsboro.
Dodd deposited $1,000 for escrow.
Dodd also requested a two-year option to purchase the adjoining lot, Lot 2, Block 3, for $6,750. Dodd would place $1,000 in escrow to purchase the lot.
The second lot has no utility hookup presently, and none will be required, according to Larry Paine, city administrator.
Paine recommended the council approve both the land sale and the purchase option with a provision for Lot 1 that Dodd “will comply with zoning and setback provisions for the piece of property.”
The offer was presented to the council by Clint Seibel, the city’s economic development director.
Early in the discussion, Councilor Marlene Fast expressed her desire to table the issue “to allow time for research.”
“It relates to who’s buying it and the sale of the lot,” Fast said.
Fast said she had hoped to have an executive session to discuss the sale, but was informed just prior to the meeting that while state statue allows for an executive session when a city is considering the purchase of property, it does not allow one when a city is considering the sale of property.
Paine said he didn’t think waiting two weeks to make the decision would necessarily hurt the buyer’s plan, but it would be a “small hiccup in the process.”
Mayor Delores Dalke spoke against delaying the sale. She said council members had received a copy of the sale contract several days before the meeting and should have addressed their concerns prior to the meeting.
After Councilor Shelby Dirks agreed to second Fast’s motion to table the issue, the vote between the four council members was 2-2, giving the mayor the option to vote. Dalke voted against the motion.
That left Fast in the position of needing to address her concerns in the public meeting if she wanted them known.
Fast apologized for not knowing the qualifications for an executive session, but said she had been made aware of past negative business dealings involving the buyer, and simply wanted the facts to be clarified.
Councilor Bob Watson said if a buyer comes to the city with the money to buy a piece of property, he felt the city should approve the sale.
“We have it for public sale,” Watson said. “I think we’re obligated to sell it to them. Otherwise, we could be opening ourselves to some liability problems.”
Seibel said Dodd has completed a business plan and that more than one person is involved in financing the project.
“I wouldn’t have brought it to the table if I didn’t think there were resources available to carry out the plan,” Seibel said.
With that, the council voted 3-1 to approve the sale of Lot 1 and 3-1 to accept the option to buy Lot 2. Fast was the lone dissenter in both votes.
On a second property issue in the same area of Hillsboro Heights, the council approved in concept a proposal by Seibel to develop a gravel parking and turnaround area at the west end of Western Heights.
The lot would be used to accommodate semi trucks. Until recently, semi trucks had been parking in the lot now sold to Dodd, Seibel said.
He estimated the cost to develop the area would be around $2,300 for the gravel, plus the time invested by city employees to do the work.
Fast asked if the lot was primarily serving Country Haven Inn motel traffic, shouldn’t the motel help pay for it?
Seibel said the motel would benefit from the lot, but so might other businesses, such as Jost Fabrication, which is located immediately east of the motel.
Seibel said the philosophy of economic development is to provide resources that draw in passing traffic so that in the end the entire community benefits.
He said if someone would ever want to develop the parking lot for a business, it would be easy to accommodate the request because the lot would be gravel.
The council approved the concept, 4-0.
In other business, the council:
• approved recommendations for the city’s employee manual regarding vacation leave, uncompensated sick leave, compensatory time usage and health insurance.
The changes had been suggested by the city’s auditors.
• was informed by Paine that trust funds designated for the Friesen Mill would be used to paint the exterior of the structure.