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Council Approves “Super Block” Plan

October 13, 2014 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

The West U City Council on Monday unanimously approved the creation of a “Super Block” that would house future city facilities, despite complaints from property owners who said the action would block their ability to sell their homes.
The council also took action to allow the sale of the city’s Public Works operations facilities on the northeast corner of Milton and College Streets, with the goal of relocating those facilities to the former Recycling Center on Westpark Drive.
The city announced the plan last week, describing it in a press release as “a master planning exercise” that could be enacted 30 years in the future. The city also notified property owners in the area bordered by University, Amherst, Auden and College Streets of the proposed “master plan.”
But several property owners, including attorney Mike Brem, said the creation of the Super Block would effectively prevent him and three other property owners from selling their homes.
“What does this do to the four property owners? Who would want to buy their properties? How would we even be able to sell them, should anybody desire to leave?” Brem asked.
Katherine Sweeney, another homeowner on University, echoed his concerns.
Sweeney complained about a similar city plan that was discussed in West U about seven years ago.
“In 2007, we had our first conversation about this issue. We’ve been in our home since 1979. We had planned to stay in our home,” Sweeney said. “I do not believe you are not going to use your power of eminent domain.”
Although Mayor Bob Fry and City Manager Michael Ross told the homeowners that the city’s long-range plan calls for West U to pay “fair market value” for the properties in the Super Block, Sweeney replied: “I don’t believe it.”
Ross stressed that “No one will be asked to leave their property. This is how cities do long-term planning.”
Ross said the Facilities Master Plan provides that the city would purchase the properties “only as homes become available.”
David Dutch, who lives on Rice Blvd., also objected to the plans.
“I think this idea is horrible. I don’t want my tax dollars used for this,” Dutch said. “I don’t like the way this whole thing is progressing.”
The city council has been meeting in executive session with Jeff Gerber, of PGAL Architects, about a 30-year plan for future city facilities. But, Ross said that a decision by West University Baptist Church to build a “Youth Center” had speeded up the city’s plans to relocate the public works facilities.
The church has been planning to build the new youth center on Amherst, “and they need to begin construction in the first quarter of 2015,” Ross said.
“This was seen as an opportunity to partner with the church,” Ross said. “The church has always been a good neighbor.”
But Dutch said, “I have grave concerns about the church being too closely aligned with city government.”

17 Responses to “Council Approves “Super Block” Plan”

  1. david Says:

    The Milton property will go out for bid. It is three lots. The church will submit the winning bid I guarantee you. Thus they will own three more lots, build their childrens center that will create allot of traffic for us residents on College and the city will be getting nothing but payment for the lots. Thus the church footprint increases yet again, more land off the tax records, more traffic, and we get nothing from the church as far as land swaps. Go to the west u website and look at the plans. The plan is for the church to own almost two whole blocks in our city center. We the taxpayers will buy out four tenants houses, move our library and sr center (which I happen to think add to the cities charm), move our public inspectors building on Amherst (which is a beautiful building I might add) and get nothing in return but partial control of the so called super block. I really wish people in west u knew what is going on with this. It is happening very quickly and mostly under the radar. The church does not seem to care about their neighbors, only about expanding their campus.

  2. Fred Hayek Says:

    The Dincans property could be more valuable in the next 20 years than the very expensive lots in West U if commercial and high rise development continues around Kirby and Westpark. Not sure an expensive relocation there makes sense.

    Effectively condemning the lots on University is a terrible decision unless the church is paying enough to not only fully fund the movement and reconstruction of all city facilities contemplated, but also to pay the current property owners at least double the current market value from six months ago before this was hanging over their heads.

  3. david Says:

    They met with the city lawyer right before giving a brief presentation to the concerned residents. Then the city council meeting started and they voted on it. All who were there voted for it including ed heathcott who is according to his bio on west u website is a deacon and leader of west u Baptist. This all happened very fast with virtually no community input. This is nothing but a big land swap with the church so they can expand their campus footprint. The city is going to swap the library and senior center so the church can build on that corner. I like the sr center and library and don’t want them moved to the super block. We should give the church the Milton property and have them swap us back their 5 lots on the university/Amherst/Auden/college block ( I believe the Milton operation center and the parking lot = five lots). We can then leave the homeowners on that block alone( no threats of eminent domain which they now have), sell the lots on university for cash and make a park if we like on the Amherst side. This is nothing but a grand vision by our city manager and a backhanded way for the church to build a super campus. The whole thing is really reckless in my opinion without community input. Why can’t we put it to a vote?

  4. biglawman.com Says:

    Do we know if this decision was made in closed session?

  5. Bob Kelly, Former WU Mayor Says:

    Again, get people to the Council meeting Monday night.

  6. Lucille Says:

    To do away with the Community, Senior Citizen, and Library Buildings would destroy what has contributed to West U’s charm.

  7. miltonwatchdog.net Says:

    Bring in the preacher and put his hand on the Bible; make him swear there is no collusion. Noise and media attention to this issue may help. City Manager and Staff do not own homes or live in West U, and could care less if we are kicked out of our homes. To tear down perfectly good City-owned buildings is just ignorant.

  8. Bob Kelly, Former WU Mayor Says:

    Contact me at bkelly44@gmail.com. I am meeting with some people today to discuss this matter. Also, a lawsuit may soon be filed by others. Help is on the way. Need to get people to attend Council meeting this coming Monday night.

  9. Bob Kelly, Former WU Mayor Says:

    Tangley Resident, I am not itching to run for office again. But I will say that the reason I ran for Mayor was that the City was using some strong arm tactics against these same property owner over the City’s desire to one day own their property. Once elected those property owners fears were put to rest. The City now appears to have jumped back into that course of action with creating the Super Block and in effect excercising control over their property.

    Since my first comments on this matter I have obtained a copy of the Master Plan. It calls for getting rid of the properties that contain the Community, Senior Citizen, Library, and Public Works buildings. They will be moved on to the Super Block. The Church tears down no buildings.
    Large amounts of taxpayer money has been spend on all these buildings and they are in great shape.
    The net effect of the Staff and Council’s actions is the run rough shod over the residents in the Super Block, sell off valuable City property, require 4 City buildings to be torn down and be rebuilt and take valuable taxable property off the tax rolls.
    This has got to be confronted.

    • david Says:

      I and a few of the affected neighbors have confronted it but we need allot more voices to be heard on this. The New church children’s center will be getting built next year at Milton and College (where the cities operation facilities now stand). How do we know the church won’t start gobbling up property on the west side of College? You better not stay silent very long or it will be to late!

  10. david Says:

    This whole thing has very little to do with the cites future planning but has everything to do with West U Baptist building on all the tax free land they have gobbled up. Shame on this Mayor, Council, and City Manager!

  11. Quality of Life Says:

    The City website has some proposed plans. The major benefit seems to be providing space for the Church to expand including a large space at the corner of Rice and Auden designated for “Future Development” and space for a “Youth Center” at the corner of Milton and College. The argument that the City needs consolidated space to provide more efficient services seems like a straw man, particularly with respect to the anguish imposed on affected homeowners and neighborhoods.
    The homeowners should not be treated in such a heavy-handed manner. They should be allowed to enjoy their homes without looming threats. If true that Ed Heathcott is a leader and a Deacon at the Church, I am disappointed in all concerned if Mr. Heathcott has been allowed involvement given clear conflict of interest.
    In general, the City Center area is congested and future growth in this area is not in the best interests of residents. The City should not be involved in providing the Church land for future development at substantial monetary and quality of life costs, including threatening the homes of residents. The Mayor and Council seem to have lost their way.

  12. Lucille Says:

    I was living in West U when this came up before. One of the councilmen strongly objected and it went away. It would be exercising eminent domain if the city can get the property for the fair market value when a much, much higher price can be gotten by the homeowner. West U is and will always be in demand by builders, realtors, and people who will pay a high price to live there. I’m surprised by the idea. On many occasions the city has expressed an interest in property and negotiated with the owners about the price. I am thinking about the possible property for a park close to the ditch. If and when the present homeowners want to sell in the next thirty years, let the city be fair and bid for the property. Every West U resident should resist a plan that could be used to grab private property which might next be their property.

  13. Sandpiper@aol.com Says:

    Government/Big Brother run amuck. Were I one of the owners of affected property and they try to force me from my home, it would be time to lock and load.

  14. Bob Kelly, Former WU Mayor Says:

    This action to establish a Super Block is really a very bad and costly action. It is in effect a condemnation of those property owners in the affected area. This will cost WU citizens millions of dollars. To my knowledge, WU has never before condemned the property of our citizens….constructive or otherwise. This is a unprecented move in our City. I agree with one of the affected property owners that there appears to be a close relationship with the Church on this matter. I have not seen the vote of the Councilmembers yet on this matter, but none that voted for it should have any hopes of getting elected next May in a run for Mayor.

    • steve Says:

      Mayor Kelly. This is all a result of the church owning to much property and wanting to build a super campus. The church does not care about it’s neighbors. All present council members voted for the super block. Ed Heathcott who is a leader and a Deacon at the church should recuse himself. This whole thing reeks of collusion and our neighbors are now under tremendous stress knowing that they will lose their homes. It is a travesty!

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