By DENISE GRANT
Findlay Council gave the first reading Tuesday to legislation that will allow for the sale of a city-owned parking lot in downtown Findlay to enable a development project, but council still has a lot of questions about the sale and the plans.
Barring a vote to pass the legislation as an emergency, it will take three readings at council’s regular meetings to approve the sale.
The Blanchard Valley Port Authority has offered to buy the parking lot, so it can be sold to a California developer who has plans to build a $31 million retail-residential development in the 500 block of Main Street, in and around the former Argyle apartment building space.
Councilman Jeff Wobser, R-at-large, had a long list of questions Tuesday, including the purchase price listed in the current agreement: $130,000.
Wobser said there has been no agreement on price.
Council members also questioned the impact of the deal on city taxes, and confusion about parking.
The agreement is also vague concerning construction costs, and there’s some question about the final ownership of the parking lot, and whether the city is actually going to sell it or lease it.
There is also concern about the construction itself in the busy downtown area. Construction of the development would start in 2020, and take about two years.
Council also wants the parking lot appraised.
Wobser advised council not to allow its “enthusiasm” for the project to overrun its judgment for the sake of Findlay’s citizens and taxpayers. With so many questions still on the table, Wobser said giving the deal its first reading on Tuesday was putting the “cart before the horse.”
Wobser asked the city to hire an “unbiased third party” to draft the agreement, instead of the city law director. For the sake of transparency, Wobser said each member of council and all city administrators should also sign an affidavit attesting that they have no vested interest in the project.
Council also agreed to hold a meeting next Tuesday with other downtown business owners and residents who may be impacted by the development. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council’s chambers.
The developer has set a May 31 deadline to finalize the deal on the parking lot.
Wobser also asked Tim Mayle, director of Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development, whether his organization is being paid a fee for its involvement with the development project. Mayle said yes, but refused to disclose the amount, citing confidentiality.
However, most of the questions about the agreement were directed Tuesday to the city’s safety director, Paul Schmelzer.
Schmelzer said the agreement serves as a starting place, and said he would work to improve the agreement to council’s satisfaction.