City council approves Y land optionWashington Community Y will get public input to determine next step
After hearing two speakers against allowing the Washington Community Y to build a possible new building on city property planned for a Wellness Park, and hearing misgivings from two council members, the Washington City Council approved an option agreement with the Y for the purchase of the property.
Council members Bob Shellmyer and Russ Zieglowsky voted against the agreement, which city attorney Craig Arbuckle said obligates the city to sell the property to the Y, if the Y chooses to purchase it. Zieglowsky said during a previous meeting that many of his constituents had said they didn’t want to see the Y move from downtown, so he would not vote in any way to approve the land deal. Shellmyer said that he was uncomfortable with the wording of the agreement. Shellmyer had said at a previous meeting that he too wanted the Y to remain downtown.
“What the council is being asked to do here is that a few months ago representatives from the Y approached the council and asked if the city would be willing to work with them if the process indicated a move,” city administrator Brent Hinson said. “The council verbally said ‘yes.’ This is just a written version of that statement.”
The Y will hold public hearings to gain input on how it should address the problem of lack of space at its current location. Hinson said that during the input process, if donors made it clear they wanted the Y to remain downtown, it would not move to the city’s property. He said it would take strong community support for the Y to move.
“It’s not the council’s position to say yes or no to the Y moving anyplace it wants to move,” council member Merle Hagie said. “To me, that is up to the members and the directors.”
Council member Bob Shepherd said that the agreement was only an option. Council member Mark Kendall also said that it was an option and the date and price of any sale would be determined at another time. Shellmyer said that the agreement was a “commitment, not an option.” Mayor Sandra Johnson said in her opinion the agreement was for the council to commit to consider selling, not committing to sell the property.
“The option is in favor of the Y – it is not in favor of the city,” Arbuckle said. “This grants them the right to exercise an option that we then have to honor according to those terms. We tried to make the terms better than they were before and make it more acceptable to the taxpayers.”
Council member Fred Stark raised a concern with the wording
of the agreement, saying that it didn’t specify that the Y needed to build its main building on the land. Johnson said that there was a provision added regarding a permanent facility within five years.
Shellmyer said that according to the wording, the Y could build athletic fields that would be in competition with the other athletic fields in the area. He also said the Y could construct a bathroom to make it a permanent facility.
“I wouldn‘t want to sell the land for that type of operation,” Shellmyer said. “If we are going to sell the land, lets sell it and put it back on the tax roll. Let’s sell it to someone who is going to put up apartments or something.”
During a public hearing, two people spoke against the agreement.
“The main reason is because of the accessibility of the Y,” said Julia Gammon during a public hearing on the agreement, on why she was against the agreement. “Not just for the grade school and middle school children who come there. For me personally it is a 10-minute drive to go there now. It would be at least 20-minutes to go north of town. I think of all the people who are dropping their daycare children and will have problems with it going north.”
She also said she believed constructing a new building would be wasteful. She encouraged the council to vote against the agreement.
Gary Murphy, a former Y board member, also spoke against the agreement, saying he had concerns about the building being away from the downtown area. He said that the Y is good where it is and that he would not want to see another building in the community sitting empty. He stressed he supported the Y, but liked the location where it is.