WORTHINGTON — The city of Worthington considered some proposed developments Monday evening at the Economic Development Authority and city council meetings.
Prior to its biweekly city council meeting Monday night, the city council acted in its capacity as the EDAu board to consider a proposal for a Frito-Lay warehouse.
The land in question is a single acre of a parcel near the corner of North Humiston Avenue and 240th Street, which is currently owned by the EDAu. The prospective buyer is interested in the west portion, which does not have highway frontage. Due to its location, and based on a 2013 appraisal, city staff recommended selling the land at a price of $1.15 per square foot.
Jason Brisson, the city's director of community development, planning, zoning and building services, explained that the EDAu board needed to first consider whether it was satisfied with the recommended price of the property. Then, as city council members, they would subsequently be likely to approve a future conditional use permit, which would be required in order to construct the warehouse.
City Administrator Steve Robinson added that the board should also consider that the interested party is asking for only part of the parcel, which means the parcel would need to be subdivided as well. If the proposed buyer purchased one acre, the parcel would still have almost two full acres that could be developed.
Board member Alan Oberloh expressed concern that the price was based on a six-year-old appraisal.
"Before we enter into an agreement, we need to see the value a new appraisal puts on (the land)," he said.
Brisson explained that the reason a new appraisal was not done before the request for purchase is that the developer is on a tight schedule, trying to complete construction before winter.
The buyer, Pat Janicek of Spirit Lake, Iowa, provided more detail about the planned Frito-Lay distribution center. He said that the warehouse would distribute goods within a 45-mile radius. He has been working with Brisson for some time to find a small enough piece of land for his development.
"I'm ready to break ground as soon as I find a parcel," he said.
All board members agreed they were OK with a warehouse going in that location, but they didn't feel comfortable settling on a price with the given information.
"I feel like the city often makes it hard for people (to develop their business)," board member Amy Ernst told Janicek. "I don't want to make it hard for you."
If the EDAu can agree to a price, Brisson explained, the next step is for city council to order a purchase agreement. Janicek would then need to apply for a conditional use permit, which would need to be recommended by the planning commission and approved by the city council.
During the city council meeting, council members revisited a conditional use permit requested by KC Properties to add 16 units of memory care to Golden Horizons assisted living.
At the July 8 city council meeting, the motion to approve the permit failed. However, the applicant has since appealed its case on the grounds that a state statute requires those who vote against the motion to state reasons why they oppose the land use request. Oberloh listed his concerns at the July 8 meeting, but council member Larry Janssen, who also voted against approval, did not.
Janssen was asked to state his reasons for opposing the expansion at Monday's council meeting. He stated that he agreed with Oberloh that the applicant had not made any effort to acquire additional land. He and Oberloh also noted that while the Golden Horizons onsite manager has attended a number of city meetings where the application was discussed, the individual who is actually working with Brisson to seek approval has not attended any public meetings.
Robinson clarified that since the permit has been denied, by law it cannot be revisited for a year unless there is substantial change to the proposal.
Brisson informed the council Monday night that Hotel Thompson receiver Lighthouse Management Group was unable to reach a purchase agreement with the building's interested prospective buyers.
As a result, the Thompson will be put up for auction.
Brisson clarified that Lighthouse would not guarantee the prospective buyers a clean title and insisted that the buyer pay all back taxes on the property. These criteria made it impossible for the interested parties to invest in developing the property, he said.
"They're asking more than anybody's willing to put into it," Brisson explained.
Brisson has asked Lighthouse to provide details about the timeline and terms of the auction, but Lighthouse has not been forthcoming.
The Thompson still needs roof replacement. Brisson said he has reached out to the contractor that the city originally made a deal with regarding roof repair, but has not heard back about when it could be ready to start working if the action was approved by council.
However, Robinson pointed out that nothing will happen on the roof until after Labor Day anyway, because it is currently school re-roofing season.
Ernst asked for confirmation about whether the Thompson has any residents. Brisson said there is at least one person currently living in the building, and council members added that it seems like some people are living there off the books.
City council members did not feel comfortable proceeding with any action without the pertinent details.