Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Somethin' "Big" Shakin' with the Windsor Hotel Project

Strange last minute amendments added to tonight's council agenda
Interesting developments in Emerald City this morning, as we learn there have been some over night changes in tonight's city council agenda.

On Saturday we broke the news that the Historic 25th Street District rezoning proposal was back on calender, with councilman Stephens' motion for reconsideration. As of late yesterday afternoon, the situation had grown more complicated than that. A quick search of the Ogden City website reveals that two other council sessions have been added to tonight's council calender:

Special joint Council/RDA study session:
Notice is hereby given that the Ogden City Redevelopment Agency will meet in a joint study session with the City Council on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 5:30 p.m., in the Council Work Room, on the third floor of the Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Boulevard, in Ogden City, Weber County, Utah.
The purpose of the study session is to review agenda items for the Redevelopment Agency meeting and Special City Council Meeting, which begin at 6:00 p.m.; and to discuss Redevelopment Agency business and Council business.
RDA closed session:
3. Closed Executive Session. Consideration of adjourning into a Closed Executive Session pursuant to the provisions of Sections 52-4-205(1)(d) and (e) of the Open and Public Meetings Law for the purpose of discussing the purchase, sale, exchange or lease of real property. (Adjourn/not adjourn into Closed Session – roll call vote).
We link below the full text of Section 52-4-205:

Utah Code 52-4-205. Purposes of closed meetings.

We've been taking calls from various insider sources this morning reporting that there's been a new development in the Windsor Hotel saga, something involving a recent new action by Ogden Properties, Inc., (the project developer). As of now, none of our sources can or will say what's happening... other than "it's really big."

Lacking firm information, we'll launch into to our usual raw speculation as to the reason the RDA Board is planning a closed session, taking the language of Utah Code Section 52-4-205 into account.

1) Has the developer made demand of Ogden City to purchase the Windsor Hotel property, under terms of Boss Godfrey's badly-negotiated Ogden Properties/Ogden City development agreement?

2) Are threats of litigation involved?

Perhaps some of gentle readers can let us know what's going behind the Emerald City scenes with regard to this matter.

And don't forget, folks... The G-train and her motley band of real estate flippers will no doubt show up in force to badger and flog the council again tonight. Word also has it that State Historic Preservation Office Director Wilson Martin will also be in attendance. It should be a good show... something all of our gentle readers who are opposed to the greed-driven Manhattenization of Historic 25th Street ought to attend.

Don't get the cat get your tongues.

Update 10/14/08 11:27 a.m. MT: We've obtained the latest Utah Heritage Foundation opinion on this subject, in the form of a letter, directed to each of our Ogden City Council members:

Kirk Huffaker 10/13/08 letter

Just a little more grist for the discussion mill...

26 comments:

f sticks said...

Yes, it best that 25th remain looking like Beirut. It is obvious the community doesn't want to invest in 25th Street. And they don't want others too either. What a crock.

Bill C. said...

f-sticks, you must never cruise Washington Blvd. if you think 25th looks like Beirut.
I think if this comes to litigation then the City ought be the ones bringing the action against Ogden Properties llc. For fraudulently seeking and getting money on the false premice that they intended to conform with Historic guidelines and needed money from the City to aid in the onerous costs of hisroric restoration. It's easy to tell that their plans don't reflect their representation to the Council.
It's also funny that this ordinance was being pushed by G-train and Bernie under the guise of Landmarks, what their pushing is a direct conflict with the purpose of their Landmarks Commission calling. In the case of g-train, realtors tend to lack morals and ethics when property is on the line, as for Bernie, well..........
The conflict here is true Historic preservation vs. speculative ecconomic developement.
The truth is the misrepresentation by Ogden Properties llc. was fraudulent but not germane to the consideration of this ordinance.
As for this suit, Harmers political appointed buddy that's due to show up, if he cannot dispute the contents and specifics of Murphy's letter or the others that have gone on record against this change, he's a waste of time.

RudiZink said...

Shall we take it then, f sticks, that you personally approve of the greed-driven Manhattenization of Historic 25th Street?

Never stand between a real estate agent and his/her commission, we always say.

RudiZink said...

Keep in mind, Bill... we're unaware of any pending lawsuit.

Remember, we've merely indulged in a little "raw speculation" in an endeavor to explain the recent frantic council activity.

ozboy said...

Kirk Huffaker is a class act. He was the long time, paid staff, go-to guy at the Heritage Foundation. There were several "Directors" that came and went, some were OK, most were not, in all cases it was Kirk who kept the whole deal going and kept whatever director of the time backed up and looking smart.

The Heritage Foundation Board, a somewhat politicized outfit itself, finally came to their senses, realized Kirk was the true heart and sole of the deal, and appointed him Executive Director. They could not have done better! He is hands down the most knowledgeable person around on Utah Heritage. In addition he is highly motivated and active, and he has loads of integrity!

Be interesting to see how the Godfreyite drum beaters handle this letter!

Bill C. said...

Rudi, my point is there ought to be a case brought against Ogden Properties llc for defrauding the taxpayer. This isn't future, they did it. The City should be trying to get their money back.

loves 25th st said...

Truly amazing that the newest attack from the Godfrey-ites is 25th street is a disaster area. And unless we change the building ordinance governing that area we'll never see any investment down there. Gee, how did the 25th st renaissance take place over the last 20 years with that anti-investment building ordinance in place?

hmmm said...

oz-
Kirk is a great guy. However, the person attending tonight's meeting (according to Rudi's info) is Wilson Martin (another class act). He is the State Historic Preservation Officer (the head cheese of the State Historic Preservation Office). And Bill, I don't think he will be there tonight to criticize or even discuss the letter, I think he will want to be there to represent SHPOs concerns and positions.

dan s. said...

Here's the bigger picture as I see it:

Everyone would agree that two of Ogden's biggest assets are our east bench trail system and our historic downtown. For each of these tremendous assets, the city has a volunteer committee charged with protecting the asset from those who would exploit it and ultimately destroy it for short-term profits. But now, it's the mayor himself who would rather cash in some of these assets than preserve them for the long term--selling foothill property for development and loosening historic preservation standards downtown. Consequently, the mayor has found himself in conflict with both volunteer committees, including committee members he appointed himself. So last fall he conducted the now-famous purge of committee members who stood in the way of his plans. With those barriers out of the way, the City Council is now the only remaining protection for either the east bench or our historic downtown.

What will it costs us. said...

When can we convince the City Council to televise on channel 17 these meetings so all the citizens can see the folks involved and how they vote and speak and not just rely on a small article in the paper. It seems the Windsor has opened a can of worms for those who want to take away the Historic district and turn it into a cash cow using taxpayers money for a few select developers.

Irked said...

The council should take Channel 17 from Godfrey control immediately.

It's a city resource, subject to council control.

The council remains the policy maker.

It's time they asserted themselves on this, and differentiated this service that belongs to the whole city, from the Godfrey propaganda planted in the city water bills.

Dave the Other said...

Good post, DAN S.

"...the City Council is now the only remaining protection for either the east bench or our historic downtown."

Hopefully there will be at least four prudent council members tonight who will drive a stake through the heart of this patenently reckless proposition to gut zoning ordinances in one of the most important Historic Districts in the nation.

grab the popcorn said...

Looks like Ogden Properties/Windsor Hotel is going down swinging. You can bet they are demanding lots of money for loss of their investments, time, etc.

dan s. said...

I agree that the council needs to take more control of Channel 17. But it wouldn't help much tonight, because it sounds like the interesting part of the meeting will take place in closed session. And of course, it will be the mayor's attorney telling the council it has to go into closed session. In fact, I doubt that the council ever has to go into closed session, but who will stick their neck out and vote not to?

sally sue said...

Oz-
They will handle the letter how they have handled every other letter the historic preservation org's have presented--without a rebuttal. They will focus on bogus distractions like the state preservation office shouldn't have sent that letter or the people who oppose this are really anti-Godfrey and anti-business, etc. I will definitely be there tonight and hope everyone else who cares about Ogden and its future will be there as well. And I sincerely hope that the developers are not threatening a lawsuit to scare the council in voting in favor of the revision.

grab the popcorn said...

I think that even if the council changes their mind it wont matter to Ogden Properties...they are out of there.

Sack Surgeon said...

The acts are fluid.

Betcha a burger @ Big Jim's Ogden Properties will be right into action raping Ogden City with their "big plans," if the city council budges on this.

Let's give Doug Stephens a Christmas present.

Maybe we could all chip in for some transplant surgery...

Something that would give Doug some sack.

I support the 4 strong council members said...

If the Council decides to reconsider to reconsider their vote on the ordinance, it will be a mistake. The Ordinance is bad legislation and should remain dead.

I, for one, am greatly disappointed in Doug Stephens and his apparent yielding to pressure from the mayor.

Bill C. makes an excellent point, IF Ogden Properties sues, then the Council should counter-sue. Afterall they have more grounds than OP LLC.

We know and sympathize with the Council for the abuse they have to suffer for a third week because of Stephens. Keep a stiff upper lip.

Desperately Seeking Legal Advice said...

Is there an attorney among Rudi’s gentle readership that can weigh in on a completely hypothetical scenario?

Let’s say a member of the Godfrey administration knowingly enters into a contract with a developer who wants to purchase a historic property in a designated historic district. Both parties sign a contract indicating the developer wants to build higher than city ordinances currently permit and the un-elected member of staff also signs on the dotted line indicating getting the ordinance changed will be “no problem.”

The removal of the height restriction hypothetically passes when run through two “rubber-stamp” commissions, but hits a snag at the city council level – where people elected by Ogden’s citizens and not appointed by the Mayor get to make decisions.

The council reviews the long-term ramifications of the decision and determines jeopardizing the entire district’s designation is not a justification for raising restrictions and allowing new structures on the street to overshadow their historic neighbors.

The hypothetical investor is now pissed and is seeking compensation for not having the rules bent for their project – especially after receiving almost $300,000 in public money.

The Ogden administration employee now begins to officially panic, but before he announces his decision to retire to “spend more time with family” he calls in some more favors. He used to oversee the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and asks his buddy to indicate that the letter sent to the city council was a big opps.

Pending ensuing litigation the issue is then dumped on the city council as many prior hypothetical issues have been when they’ve been completely mismanaged by the Mayor and his administration (water infrastructure, crime, community planning). Now the council must decide what to do.

So here are my questions:

If two parties enter into a contract when both are aware existing city ordinances prohibit building past a set height unless ELECTED OFFICIALS vote to change an ordinance, does the developer have grounds to sue for breach of contract if the ordinance is not changed?

Who the hell “works” in Ogden City’s legal department? Do they still work there?

Not that anything mentioned above has to do with tonight’s city council meeting, but can anyone with legal expertise make it there to speak about legal options during the public comments section?

Monotreme said...

Many of us have bemoaned what newspapers like the Standard-Examiner have become, in this modern era.

Just so you know, the Standard is not alone. Times are tough all over.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

Too true. I've been surprised by the thinness of the SE on the doorstep much of last week and now this week. It's coming up on TG buying period, the holidays, and the paper is so thin, it barely stretches the rubber band it comes in. Not a good sign at all. This speaks not to the editorial content or policy, but to the plummeting number of pages of advertising. The old LA Times was big enough to kill a dog because it had many many pages of advertising supporting much more news and editorial content. But absent the ads, content necessarily suffers, at least with respect to the amount of it.

Cause and Effect said...

Desperately seeking legal advice

I don’t think there is enough information given in your example to answer your question properly.
Must know additional facts such as, whether the developer was aware of the height restriction prior to the contract, what was promised to the developer and on what conditions. Would be curious as if the contract was run past the city legal department and signed off by management that has binding authority. If the signer of the contract for the city did not have binding capacity for the city then the city has an out there irrespective as to how many contracts in the past he or she may have signed.
Seems clear at least that from the original approval of the city funding for renovation that the height restriction was at least known about by the developer and that the developer was securing renovation funds under the then existing zoning.
One possible issue here is not whether the developer knew but rather did the city have the authority to bid in contract to something that it could not legally bind to at the time. Most contracts have a severability clause in them (if properly drafted) that basically state that if any part of the contract is deemed illegal then that illegal part of the contract will be removed and the rest of the contract will remain in effect. If that is the case here, then the city may have the right to remove the language relative to illegal action in the contract (the height variance) and hold the developer to the existing (legal) height restriction potentially.
IMHO the council should not vary from their past vote but rather let those within the city that caused this potential grievance deal with the issue. If a law suit is a potential outcome or effect, so be it. It won’t be the first or last but it will force out the truth and help identify those within the city that were the cause.

disgusted said...

is the cc meeting over and if so what happened.

George K said...

Five of the seven council members voted to not to override the Mayor's veto of the amendment to the allow two types of development during the moriatorium of certain neighborhood business centers. Council members Garcia and Gochnour voted to override the veto. The other council members except Council member Johnson cited the success of the Mt Ogden Community Plan and hope that the East Central Community Plan as much success. The Council showed their support for residents of the East Central neighborhood.

Councilwoman Gochnour said that she had been involved in preserving historical buildings both residential and commericial. She told of her experience helping the IRS choose which historic buildings to restore and how well they had turned out.

She was scolded for having a prepared statement. The Council members were chastised by twelve attendees for voting to not reconsider the ordinance. They claimed that there was no justifiation for their vote,so during the comments,

Councilwoman Jeske read the first paragraph of a letter from Kirk Huffaker, Executive Director of the Utah Heritage Foundation urging them to stay with their original vote of the prior week because it was the right vote.

There were twelve residents who thanked the Council for their vote and preserving the historic district in Ogden. Several said that standards were set and plans made to help preserve historic integrity of cities at such times.

During the comment period, Godfrey was usual rude self and told George Hall to show how committed he was to Ogden by putting up the money to buy and restore the Windsor Hotel. Councilwoman Jeske told the Mayor that she had not said that her vote was payback. The Mayor said that she had told Mr. Harmer that and she said that she did not and never would say that expecially to one of his staff. He looked astounded that she had contradicted him. Vice Chair Stephens explained that he had asked the Council to reconsider their vote in hopes that a solution could be achieved.

Moroni McConkie said...

Note to F-Sticks: If you so object to what you say is a "Beirut" look on 25th, where were you during all the years when the mayor allowed the Junction site to languish as a weed-infested, trichloroethylene-polluted hole in the ground? Now THAT was Beirut.

curious 1 said...

I find it interesting that the Mayor would attack a private citizen George Hall speaking at a City Council meeeting when George could not respond back to the mayor. Mr Hall has renovated the buildings he owns such as the old Greyhound Building and the Bottle Works in Ogden and has donated time and energy to charitable affairs.
I don't see his properties unused for years, abandoned, weed patches, fire traps or attracting arsonest for insurance purposes.

I find todays editorial where the Mayor states that it takes time to have all the paperwork together to tear down someones elses property. If it is a hazard and attracting transients then the city does need to come in and bulldoze the properties and send the bills to the owners. Simply solution and would do much more to enhance the looks of Ogden. If I had a business here I would be pressing the city to clean up that area.

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