Resort officials have approved on first reading an ordinance authorizing the purchase of the World Gym property on the bayside at 67th Street, HEDP but not before a debate about its short-term use and a veiled threat of a petition attempting to stop the sale.
The Mayor and Council had before them on Monday an ordinance for first reading that would authorize the town to purchase the existing World Gym property at 67th Street for a little over $1.2 million. The 18,000-square-foot parcel is one piece of a larger collection of properties needed by the town for a new water treatment plant in the future.
The existing water treatment plant at 44th Street has been in service for over six decades and has outlived its useful life. To that end, the town has been piece-meal purchasing parcels in the area of 67th Street for the purpose of planning and ultimately building a new water treatment plant. Already, the town has purchased the old VFW property in the area of 67th Street for the same purpose.
In September, the council voted to begin condemnation process for the gym property, which had been in foreclosure. Later that month, Wells Fargo purchased the property for $1.13 million at a public auction on the site. Because the town as a municipality was not allowed to participate in the public auction during a trustee sale, the town took the pre-emptive step to begin the condemnation process for the land.
Once Wells Fargo bought the parcel at auction, the town was free to negotiate a fair market price for the property, which has led to the proposed purchase for $1.2 million initiated on Monday. The purchase price would be funded through the town’s water department enterprise fund, a self-sustaining fund generated by water system user payments.
The condemnation in September followed by the ordinance proposed at first reading on Monday raised eyebrows for some in the community who suggested the town was essentially “taking” the property. Before the ordinance came to vote on first reading on Monday, Councilman Matt James clarified the legitimacy of the purchase process.
We are purchasing this property from the owner and not taking it,” he said. “I just wanted to make that clear because we’ve heard some complaints.”
Councilman John Gehrig said he agreed with the process, but questioned what the short-term future was for the property once the purchase was complete. An outline in the packet suggested the existing buildings on the site would be demolished in advance of the future development of the new water treatment plant.
“When did we discuss what to do with this property once it is purchased?” he said. “I don’t want to be bound to it being used in a certain way. I’d just like that to be discussed.”