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1 West State Street: Make up your mind

Mar 22

1 West State Street: Make up your mind

UPDATED: We were incorrect, Borough Council was unanimous in revealing the terms of this offer, not for selling the building to this bidder.

The statement made by Monica Simpson at the meeting was:

  • “This is a decision that will be very well received by our residents, by the local businesses, and I think this is one area in which council has unanimously agreed that this is the best decision for this property … for the borough.”
  • The vote thereafter was unanimous to read the statement.

The original opinion article continues here:

I was happy to see the Delaware County Times write an article about “Old Borough Hall” a.k.a. 1 West State Street. What’s interesting is the position of Borough Council President, Pete Alyanakian:

I’m not happy with the price. I had a different expectation. I’ve been a proponent of selling it, but this is flat out too low of an offer,” said President Pete Alyanakian.

What? According to Monica Simpson, Borough Council was unanimous in accepting the offer. Even curmudgeon Jim Cunningham voted for the offer. Because all votes are in executive session, this, unfortunately is all based on Ms. Simpson’s statements at the meeting. Note, however, that no one spoke up to contradict her claim and state that it wasn’t unanimous divulging this offer to the public.

I think the sentiment among all borough council representatives was that the price is too low. Certainly that’s my opinion. Certainly, it seems too low for a building appraised above $1 million dollars in 2007. That’s money that could be used for many things that this town needs. Not to mention the $72,000 in income ($6K/month) we are missing by not renting the building.

So, in the closed executive session, Mr. Alyanakian is in favor of the offer, but publicly, it’s “flat out too low of an offer.”

Color me confused, then. Why not vote against it then?

Unfortunately, this highlights the political skill of Mr. Alyanakian. At the workshop meeting on April 7th, 2011, I asked whether they were, in fact, unanimously in favor of this offer.

Mr. Cunningham stated: ”Not necessarily.”

Pete Alyanakian stated: “We’re exploring the opportunity to look at this offer. We’re not voting on it tonight.”

After further clarification, it was revealed that the unanimous approval was simply to present the offer.

We regret this error. Given the history of how Mr. Alyanakian chooses to vote, my bet is that he and Jim Cunningham will vote against the motion.

4 comments

  1. James /

    Conservation restrictions – such as the ones included with this proposal – significantly discount a property’s value.

    Is the lower price worth it to ensure the facade and veteran’s memorial are never changed and to guarantee the building is never demolished? I have no idea and I don’t think the borough has any appraisal that take this into consideration.

    How about you, candidate Kent? Now is your opportunity to demonstrate leadership. Would you have voted to accept the bid? Or would you have voted against?

    If the borough sell its assets, is price the only important thing? Or would you discount the properties in exchange for conservation concessions that would preserve the historic nature of the properties?

  2. Median /

    With the caveat that I do not have access to all of the information that the current Borough Council has (including offers and costs), this corner and property are the cornerstone and the “gateway” to State Street and Media as a town.

    While the proposed contract stipulates that the facade can not be changed, in my opinion and experience, once the property is owned by a third party, we have almost no control over it. Recent sources have indicated that the property will not be able to be put on the National register.

    The reason this property has failed so miserably in the past 10 years is that we have had bad tenants.

    The current attitude by some members of council that “The borough should not own property” is too simplistic, and ignores the successful properties that are owned and bring income to Media as a whole.

    Personally, I would need to investigate the legal precedent to handing over a property such as this and mandating long-term maintenance. If such a precedent exists and we could get a party to agree to it, then price would not be as important as keeping this property attractive and as a historic landmark. History dictates that this is not the case. Possession (Ownership) is 9/10 of the law, as the old adage goes.

    Otherwise, I would opt to keep control of the property, and turn it into an income-generating property with an excellent restaurant or retail establishment.

  3. James /

    First, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to compose a considered, detailed response.

    You may be right that the restrictions may not be enforceable depending on how the sale is structured. However, my understanding is that the imposition of a formal conservation easement would be legally binding and may even offer tax incentives to the purchaser. If the Borough is serious about retaining some level of control, that would be the direction to go.

    I agree that it would be too simplistic to focus on slogans and the sale price. On the other hand, turning the 1 West State into an income-generating property doesn’t appear to be a realistic option in the short term.

    • Brian Hall /

      James,

      I’ve taken your initial comment as an invitation to all candidates to offer their thoughts about this issue. Both Kent and I are Democrats running for Media Borough council.

      Like Kent, I don’t know the details of the proposed sale. Like Kent, I’d prefer to keep ownership of Old Borough Hall with the borough – if continued ownership made financial sense. The borough received only one bid for the property after two formal requests for bids and nearly six months of private efforts to sell it. Clearly, there is limited interest to buy Old Borough Hall at this time. Based on this history and the likelihood, in my judgment, that the real estate market will not improve considerably in the near future, I think that the proposed sale makes sense.

      I’m a bit stronger in my position than is Kent. In large part this is because I understand that permanent easement restrictions in Pennsylvania are recognized and enforceable. Preservation of the building, to me, is the key to the proposed sale. Many residents and visitors consider Old Borough Hall and the Veterans’ Memorial to be Media icons and want them preserved. They do not want to see these familiar places razed without regard to our community. I agree. The proposed sale, with permanent easement restrictions that will run with the land, should accomplish this.

      Of course, there is the issue of the proposed sale price. I wish it were more. But, as you have pointed out, conservation restrictions discount property values. (I also wish that there were some workable way for the borough to keep Old Borough Hall as a public space, perhaps for the arts or as a community center. That means not only that the borough would forego money from the sale, but that the borough would fix up the building – it needs a lot of work – and then maintain it. Both of these are difficult things to do in difficult economic times.) So, what discount is reasonable to preserve two Media icons? It was announced at the last council meeting that all members of council were in agreement to sell Old Borough Hall, subject to easement restrictions, at the price offered. With the solicitor’s assurance that such easement restrictions were in place, I believe that I also would have favored the proposed sale.

      Lastly, I’m aware that some have spun the proposed sale as a $1,000,000 lost opportunity versus a $650,000 boondoggle. I’ll get right to it – they’re wrong. First, there is much disagreement among those who were present whether there ever actually was an offer of $1,000,000 six years ago; some remember that it was an “expression of interest”, not a formal bid. I wasn’t on council then, so I can’t say. I do know, however, that the property assessment at that time was not subject to any conservation restrictions. The subsequent vote to lease Old Borough Hall was unanimous among the 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans then serving. I also know, because I was on council at the time, that the most recent assessment was not subject to any conservation restrictions. I ask, if the 2005 decision to lease, rather than sell, Old Borough Hall was such a bad deal, why did everyone on council vote in favor of it? Likewise, if the deal that is on the table now is so bad, why does everyone on council (at least, as of the March, 2011 legislative meeting) favor it?