Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Council/Commission Pow-wow Calendered for Next Week

A chance to smooth over ruffled feathers, and formulate some "guiding principles"

Ace Reporter Schwebke revives the Windsor Hotel saga again this morning, with this morning's Standard-Examiner story, reporting that the Emerald City Council and its advisory Landmarks Commission will sit down next week for a serious pow-wow. Mr. Schwebke's lead paragraphs provide the gist:
OGDEN -- The Ogden Landmarks Commission will meet Tuesday with the city council to ease hard feelings between the two organizations stemming from a controversial decision that halted renovations at the historic Windsor Hotel.
The Landmarks Commission requested the meeting to smooth its rocky relationship with the council.
"Recent events reflect a need for improvement in communication. (The) goal of all committees and council should work toward mitigating the divisiveness that is ultimately detrimental to the community," says an agenda for the meeting.
City Councilman Brandon Stephenson said the meeting with the Landmarks Commission may be beneficial.
"I hope we can understand one another's position a little better," he said Wednesday. "I think the council needs to come to a place where we can collectively determine the guiding principles and policies related to historical areas of the city. The Landmarks Commission can help us come to a guiding philosophy.
We think clarifying "guiding philosophy" is a danged good idea. Educating certain Landmark Commission members about the committee's true role in the Ogden historic preservation arena is a process that's long overdue, we believe. We congratulate city council leadership for opening the door for face-to-face discussion with Commission Chair Sue "G-Train" Wilkerson and the rest of the Ogden City Landmarks Commission.

While it ought to be clear at this point that the City Council, (the policy making body for Ogden City,) has adopted a cautious and conservative approach to development within our city's Historic 25th Street District, this lesson apparently hasn't yet sunk in with at least some commission members, whose recent recommendation to lift building height restrictions throughout entire 25th Street District smacked of that reckless, full-tilt pro-development, California carpetbagger attitude that's become so prevalent in our town, with the advent of Wilkerson, and a few other of her other real estate development cronies.

As an aside, we also have our doubts about the ethical propriety of Ms. Wilkerson's service on the commission at all. As an outspoken advocate of unbridled development, she could not conceivably find herself in a role with greater conflict of interest.

Further down the article, Mr. Schwebke lapses into a rehash of the Ogden Properties debacle, wherein Ogden Properties agreed over a year ago to rehabilitate the Windsor Hotel structure, according to terms requiring compliance with existing zoning ordinances. In the course of that process, this developer accepted a very generous $288,000 cash grant, and then spent the next year gutting the building, stripping interior walls down to the brick, removing electrical wiring, and essentially leaving the Windsor a commercially useless hulk.

And now, these same developers have the audacity to accuse the council of political misconduct, in their refusal to approve a wholesale modification of the rules pertaining to not only the Windsor Hotel property, but the entire Historic 25th Street District. And adding insult to injury, the developer puts the arm on Ogden City to purchase this now derelict property at a price which would, on paper, generate for Ogden Properties a nice fat 300% profit.

And while we're on the subject of Ogden Properties, here's the approach we would advocate if the Windsor dispute ever winds up in court: Ogden City should simply sue for breach of contract, and seek the remedy of restitution. Inasmuch as Ogden Properties stands in anticipatory breach of the underlying Development and Grant Agreements, and even now refuses to perform its contractual obligations as earlier promised, Ogden City should be entitled get the grant money back.

Let Ogden Properties keep the Windsor property, and hopefully make something useful of it. Neither the City nor the RDA Board has any legal obligation to purchase the property.

The floor is open for reader comments.

12 comments:

OgdenLover said...

I found the tone of this article offensive, but then that shouldn't surprise anyone. The Council did their best to protect the future of our City's landmarks. They don't need smarmy public attacks which do nothing to promote improved communication. How much of the tone was Sue Wilkerson's and how much Schwebke's is hard to say. I suspect it's a cooperative venture.

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

Before pounding the volunteer members of the Landmarks Commission too severely, be well to keep in mind two things, both of which were pointed out by the Commission member who took part in a long discussion here at WCF some weeks ago.

First, the LC was not aware that various historic preservation groups in Utah believed raising the height limit over all of 25th Street might endanger the street's Historic District designation when they made their initial recommendation. The LC members became aware of those opinions when the rest of us did: when the letters were sent to Council members.

Second: the LC, or at least some of its members, were not aware until much later... in fact, one learned of this through the discussion here... of federal publications illustrating bad preservation projects that violated federal preservation guidelines. The document containing these examples, designed specifically to help cities plan well, were apparently not included in the packets delivered to the LC by the city planning department as part of their consideration of the zoning change request.

Seems to me this meeting is a good, and may help to clear up for both groups what happened, why each did what it did, what information each group did and did not have when it made its decision, and how the process can be improved for the future.

However, Rudi, that isn't going to happen if the tone of the discussion becomes the Council lecturing the LC on how it screwed up, how foolish it was, and how it needs to sit at the feet of the Council and learn. I don't think that will be the Council's view of this going in. I certainly hope it won't.

After all, the LC does not exist to recommend to the council what the council prefers to have recommended to it. The LC exists to exercise its independent best judgment regard what comes before it, and to, based on that judgment, make recommendations to the Council. It can't do that if it kowtows to the Council's preferences in advance. And the Council of course is free to accept or reject those recommendations, as it sees fit.

If both groups go into this meeting with the goal of helping the other group understand why each group did what it did, and then with the goal of perhaps revising the process some to make things work more openly and effectively in the future, the meeting could well result in good things happening. Have my fingers crossed....

RudiZink said...

"However, Rudi, that isn't going to happen if the tone of the discussion becomes the Council lecturing the LC on how it screwed up, how foolish it was, and how it needs to sit at the feet of the Council and learn."

I'm not sure where you got that... LOL.. perhaps you were reading some other main article.

"If both groups go into this meeting with the goal of helping the other group understand why each group did what it did, and then with the goal of perhaps revising the process some to make things work more openly and effectively in the future, the meeting could well result in good things happening. Have my fingers crossed..."

I couldn't be more in agreement, Curm. Hopefully, after a robust interaction between the council and the commission on Tuesday, all the Landmarks folks (The G-Train and Uncle Bernie obviously excepted,) will emerge entirely clear about why they need to view administration supplied information with extreme skepticism... assuming all goes well.

That's the edumacational experience I was speaking about.

"It can't do that if it kowtows to the Council's preferences in advance. And the Council of course is free to accept or reject those recommendations, as it sees fit."

True in the abstract, but that doesn't mean that the Council shouldn't let the Landmarks folks know that it will always take a cautious approach, especially with regard to Historic 25th Street's Federal designation. At the very least, some of these new commissioners need to understand the council's general philosophical leanings.

If some within the LC can't kowtow to the council's general preferences, perhaps they should consider serving on a less publicly prominent committee... like f'rinstance the soon to be formed Elect Godfrey in 2011 committee

hehehe.

NEXT!

Ernie the Attorney said...

Count me in as one of the people who'd really like to see an Ogden Properties v. Ogden lawsuit, Rudi.

Many of us who have more than passing familiarity with the legal system are still wondering about the possible oral inducements and representations the Godfrey Administration may have made to this Ogden Properties Real Estate Developer Amateur Act, to induce them to make contractual promises in the first place, and to later charge the city council with misfeasance for refraining from amending the existing zoning ordinances. Where, exactly did these wannabe developers get the idea that the Ogden City Council would somehow let them off the hook, regarding the contractual promises they made when the signed the development and grant agreements?

This would all come out in pre-trial discovery, of course.

I'm curious about this. How about you?

Ernie the Attorney said...

One more thing. I agree with you on this point, Rudi. An action by Ogden City under contract theory should be a slam dunk, now that Ogden Properties seems fully committed to breaching the development and grant agreements.

The beauty of the situation is that Ogden City and the RDA could prevail on a breach of contract action, and further prevail on its prayer that Ogden Properties should disgorge the grant money that was dependent upon completion of this project within the provisions of these written contracts.

Ogden Properties has NO legal legs to stand upon here, that I can see.

If they really want to protect their property interests, perhaps they should step up to Council Leadership, and play ball.

BenJoe said...

Um...wouldn't you think if you have a commission on landmarks, they would know the rules and regulations for landmarks and historical buildings.

The comments of the LC not learning about historical requirements until people pointed out to them seems like a lame excuse. Should we not research this before hand?

Just a thought

danny said...

Well I agree with Rudi's write up, and the comments above except for Curm's comments which are insipid as they so ofter are, and BenJoe who seems to have just joined the party and has no idea what has been going on.

But I disagree with what the tone to the meeting between the council and the Landmarks Commission should be. Sue Wilkerson and the mayor orchestrated a campaign of lies and deception which once it was uncovered, saw the godfreyites trying to bludgeon the council into doing their will,which in the end was WRONG.

The council is owed an apology from Sue Wilkerson and Kurt Geiger, afterwhich Wilkerson should resign. The Landmarks Commission members who were also lied to by Wilkerson and Greg Montgomery should call for her resignation and refuse to interact with Montgomery any further.

All the council as done is act in good faith and all the godfreyites have done is lie. This is the point of departure from which this meeting should begin.

As far as Stephenson looking for the council to understand the LC position and work with them, Stephenson is a mindless schill for Godfrey. His statements are predicatable and meaningless.

danny said...

You don't see a face like this every day. Check out the guy in the middle.

Jeff Lowe, Curt Geiger, Godfrey, Sue Wilkerson, in twenty years

That is what screwing yourself looks like. Great Depression-like, isn't it?

disgusted said...

i agree with dannys comment as to which party initiated the disrespectful dialog and which party should be the humble. certain members of the landmark commission showed a total lack of class and will again if they dont get their way. city council just needs to be prepared for this same type of juvenile tantrum when ever they have differences with this commission due to certain members of this commission. this meeting is just another effort by the administration to get the city council to change their vote.

city council needs to remember that they have the higher responsibility to represent the best interests of the residents rather than the whims of a developer that has been promised something by an administration that over stepped its bounds. the city council has the last word and if they feel that the long term integrity of the historical district is at risk then they should exercise prudence rather than compromise.

Curmudgeon said...

Ben Joe:

You wrote: The comments of the LC not learning about historical requirements until people pointed out to them seems like a lame excuse.

There was no disagreement about "the rules." The LC knew, and the developers made no bones about it, that the Windsor rehab was not within federal historic preservation guidelines and that the resulting building would be a "non-conforming" one. The disagreement was about whether changing the height limit for the entire street would or would not endanger the streets Historic District designation. It was [and is] a disagreement about interpreting the federal guidelines, and the consequences of changing the zoning in light of those differing interpretations of what the guidelines might/would mean if the height limit is changed.

BenJoe said...

Curmudgeon

Thanks for the clarification.

Curmudgeon said...

BenJoe:

De nada. It's been an education trying to unravel some of this, and I went way wrong on some early posts in re: the council being asked to "surrender" power to approve projects by the LC. They weren't being asked to surrender any authority at all, but it took me a while to find that out. My bad.

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