At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Redevelopment Agency approved getting appraisals of the old Browder building to explore the possibility of the city purchasing the property with agency funds and saving it from demolition.
Member Kiernan McManus asked for this to be discussed in an attempt to purchase the building, the oldest commercial property in town, from Charles Lawson for the fair market value.
According to the city, state law allows for the RDA to purchase or lease any real or personal property within the redevelopment area so it can be redeveloped. The intent of the purchase would be to the resell the Browder building so the property could be returned to an economically viable contributor to the downtown business district.
Lawson has said his asking price for the property is $750,000, which needs to be in all cash and as is. Currently, there is approximately that amount in the RDA fund.
The first step in the process is getting the property appraised by two sources to determine the fair market value. If those amounts differ by more than 10 percent, a third appraisal will be requested.
Acting City Manager Scott Hansen estimates the cost of those appraisals to be between $7,000 and $11,000.
McManus said that the city cannot move forward without an appraisal, but the city should start the process.
Member Warren Harhay agreed that the city needed to have all the facts in order to make a decision about this.
Residents also voiced their support for getting an appraisal to find out if the city could purchase the property.
Sharon Newby told the agency to keep in mind that it could be three businesses on the property rather than just one.
“I vote for a coffee shop and a bookstore … I just so enjoy all the historic preservation … that’s what makes Boulder City unique to me,” she said.
“There’s absolutely nothing to lose by getting facts, talking to the owner and moving forward,” said Judy Dechaine.
James Adams said he supports historic preservation and would like to work with the owner to save the building.
“Why not just try and see what happens,” he said. “Once it’s gone it’s gone.”
Other issues raised by residents included: not being financially irresponsible in saving the building and using this as a way to give more teeth to the city’s historic preservation laws.
Mayor Rod Woodbury said he spoke with Lawson, who said he felt that RDA funds should not be used to buy the building, that the property was not for sale to the city, and that he was selling it for political reasons.
Woodbury said Lawson had other people interested in the property and did not want to get in the way of those negotiations.
“It’s not prudent to do it if it does not come back at the appraised value,” he added. “It sets a bad precedent.”
Woodbury said it’s possible to work with Lawson toward finding a solution to keep the property, and he’d be willing to facilitate a meeting between him and McManus.
“It’s important that we don’t get dragged into a lawsuit … We want to do it the right way,” he added.
Despite knowing that Lawson did not want to sell the property to the city, Woodbury said he’d go forward with the appraisal if cost limit was specified and the owner granted access to the property.
“I think you’ll find he wants to talk to certain council members before that,” Woodbury said.
“I applaud the efforts to save the building, and I think we have time to save it, and we shouldn’t get in the way of what’s being done to save it in the private sector,” he added.
In a 4-1 vote, the RDA approved getting the appraisal at a cost of up to $10,000 and only if Lawson would grant access to the property. Member Rich Shuman voted against it.
After the vote, Grant Turner questioned why the city would spend the money on an appraisal if Lawson wasn’t going to sell them the property.
Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at email@example.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.