Disagreement on Dari-Ette lease may lead city to court

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The future of the Hillsboro business known for decades as the Dari-Ette Drive In may be decided in a court of law.


Jay L. and Cathy McClure, rural Marion, who have leased the city-owned property at 211 W. D Street for the past 15 years, indicated at the March 7 meeting of the Hillsboro City Council that they were prepared to go to court if a satisfactory agreement could not be reached.


The issue arose when the council decided earlier this year not to renew the city’s lease. The original agreement with the McClures, signed Jan. 21, 1986, was for five years with the option of renewing two times for five additional years each time.


In lieu of the council’s decision not to renew the lease, the McClures had asked the city to buy the building. They originally asked for “slightly more” than $20,000, but lowered their request to that amount after the city countered with an offer of $10,000.


“We just feel like if you don’t want to renew our lease, that $20,000 is not too much to ask for the building down there,” Cathy McClure said at the meeting. “And I guess if you guys decide you can’t pay us that, we’ll just have to go to court.”


The McClures said the amount they are asking is significantly less than what they had invested in the building over the past 15 years. If the city did not want to pay them $20,000, the McClures said they wanted to renew the lease.


“If all I can get is $10,000 out of it, I want to open (the drive-in) so I can get more out of it,” Jay McClure said at the March 7 meeting.


The issue was not listed on the council’s March 7 agenda, but the McClures were given the opportunity to speak near the conclusion of the meeting.


“I’d like to ask why our lease was not renewed when the lease has been there for 50 years and now, all of a sudden, we can’t get a lease,” Jay McClure said to the council. “It seems you think it’s worth pennies on the dollar to buy it. I guess I’d like to know what your thinking is.”


City Attorney Dan Baldwin, responding on behalf of the council, said he had written a letter to the McClures asking them to meet privately with him about the issue.


“I don’t agree with the statement that the city offered you pennies on the dollar,” Baldwin said. “To clarify things, an offer has been made in writing. The next step is negotiation, which is where I think we are.


“I’ve advised the council that it looks like if this negotiation doesn’t go forward, it looks like a possible litigation problem,” Baldwin told the McClures.


Because of the potential for litigation, Baldwin said he had advised council members not comment publicly about the matter.


The McClures expressed their frustration at not being able to interact directly with council members.


“Why do we have to go through you (Baldwin) when we’ve always gone through the council before?” Jay McClure asked. “It’s the council’s decision.”


“It is the council’s decision,” Baldwin responded. “I am working for the council, I have their wishes in mind. That’s what I’m authorized to talk to you about.”


The McClures were accompanied to the meeting by Tom Plett and Ken Koslowsky. Plett was involved with the Dari-Ette when his parents were the lessees and Koslowsky is a former lessee.


Koslowsky did not speak publicly, but Plett recounted his family’s experience as Dari-Ette operators and described how anxious they had been when it came to time to renew their lease with the city.


“I feel sorry for Jay and Cathy because if I was in their shoes, I’d be interested in getting more (money), too,” Plett said. “I would have asked for more than $20,000 30 years ago already.”


The lease agreement does not contain a provision for compensating the owner for the building if the lease is not renewed.


“I just don’t know what was going on back then that left that open,” Baldwin said Monday. “I’d like to say that if I had drawn (the lease), I would have put it on. But who knows?


“I feel that the city was in the mix enough that there ought to be some give and take here on the improvements,” he added. “But as far as there being a clause in the lease that we have to do that, there isn’t.”


Baldwin said the decline in business activity at the location was a factor in the council’s decision.


“If the place had still been thriving and continued to be a benefit to the city as a whole, then they might have extended that lease,” he said. “The benefit to the city was not the lease payment.”


Jay McClure said late last week he had met with Baldwin since the March 7 meeting, as he was encouraged to do at the meeting by Mayor Delores Dalke.


“I basically told him what I’ve been saying all along,” McClure said. “Either we want to lease (the property) or we want $20,000. He said he would have to talk to the council about it. To me, that’s just getting the runaround.


“It’s very frustrating,” he added. “It’s like we’re trying to rip off somebody else and we feel like we’re being ripped off.”

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