Council OKs compromise after tie vote
Before approving a compromise at 11:30 p.m. May 6, town councilmembers deadlocked 2-2 in two votes on developer Tom Grossman’s certificate of economic hardship for demolition of two structures in Brickelltown. Councilmember Maia Schneider was out of town on business.
According to town officials, this is the first time the council has deadlocked on two subsequent votes.
Following public comment and presentations by proponents and opponents of the demolition, town counsel recommended that the council approve a certificate of economic hardship on the green home, and delay approval of a certificate on the yellow house for 30 days, giving Grossman an opportunity to explore other alternatives presented by the public during the appeal hearing.
Town attorney J. Dennis Crabb said the delay might be necessary to “clear the record,” and make certain that the council had adequately considered issues raised by the public, since it was acting in a quasi-judicial role hearing the appeal.
However, Councilmember Bob Drake proposed certificates of economic hardships for both structures.
“I believe that a commercial building, designed and in keeping with the historic character of that specific area, will contribute far more as a tourist draw to the Brickelltown area and an economic engine for the town than these buildings restored to residences,” Drake said. He said the town has foiled and delayed efforts by the Grossmans to utilize their property and add a beneficial and contributing structure to the downtown area.
Drake said he was convinced that all findings had been made for economic hardship and would vote for demolition.
“In my opinion, we have a small group of individuals who have a specific agenda to delay, hinder and prevent any change from the good old days, whatever they were,” Drake said. “They appear and cause others to appear and regurgitate the same party line – let’s delay, let’s do a study, let’s appoint a citizens’ group. Let’s do nothing except what we (this small group) want to happen. This act has become very tiresome and repetitive to me.”
Drake’s motion failed in a 2-2 vote, with he and Councilmember Ron Florian voting in favor, and Mayor Josh Susman and Councilmember Don McCormack voting against it.
McCormack said he would like to see the 30-day delay on a certificate of economic hardship, because of the issues raised by the town attorney, and to explore options for saving the yellow house, which was the less dilapidated and more historic of the two homes.
He said he worried about a domino effect, with property-owners allowing their structures to decay and then applying for demolition permits.
McCormack called a vote on the proposal by Crabb, approving the certificate of economic hardship on the green house, and delaying a vote on the yellow house for 30 days, pending a review of testimony presented to council.
McCormack said he was in favor of studying other alternatives to demolishing the yellow house, including constructing a project on the remaining two parcels which would be profitable enough to partially subsidize the preservation of the yellow house.
The vote again tied 2-2, with Susman and McCormack in favor and Florian and Drake against.
There were uneasy chuckles from both sides of the audience, and a flurry of activity by town staff.
After a moment, Crabb said that a tie on the matter amounted to an approval of the permits, under the terms of the initial council compromise approved for Grossman’s houses in 1998. However, there were other issues from that resolution which needed to be resolved as well.
McCormack tried to propose another compromise and was interrupted by Drake.
“If we’re going to try to Mickey-Mouse around this, I won’t do it,” Drake said.
“I don’t consider what we’re doing Mickey-Mousing around,” McCormack replied.
After a brief exchange, council took a break while Grossman’s attorney, the town attorney and town staff met to draft a compromise.
They moved on to other business, and more than an hour later a new proposal was introduced – approving certificates of economic hardship for both homes and clearing the way for demolition permits, but requiring Grossman to negotiate in good faith with anyone proposing a method to make restoring the yellow house a profitable endeavor – including anyone interested in buying the house.
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