Marine City Commission accepts offer to buy Guy Center – The Voice

The Marine City Commission has taken another step towards the sale of 303 S. Water St.

A listing agreement between the city and Pilot Property Group for the property, known as the Guy Center, was approved by the commission in May. In July, a few residents came forward to oppose the sale, but commissioners voted 5-2 to allow the city manager to ask for offers, accept the best one, and work with the city attorney on a purchase contract to be brought to the municipal commission for final approval.

At the August 18 commission meeting, a few residents again spoke out against the sale.

Prior to discussing whether to accept a purchase offer, the commissioners first approved a motion to receive and file three legal memoranda from City Attorney Robert Davis dated July 25, August 11 and August 16 at by a vote of 5 to 1, with Commissioner Lisa Hendrick dissenting. Commissioner John Krielder was absent.

Davis said the memos were prompted by the commission meeting last month, when Hendrick asked why the city was giving the potential buyer 28.71 feet behind the building, noting the space was part of the Park.

He said that under charter and state law, the city was not allowed to sell park property while it was still designated as a park in its master plan, but the park had already been removed from the master plan to consider the sale of the property. He noted that the planning commission might want to ratify the vote they did to approve the master plan, as it would have to be by a resolution, and it was done by a roll-call vote.

He also said officials had spoken with county engineers and that the Guy Center property extended roughly from the right-of-way to the waterfront, so the 28.71 feet were lower than that.

Hendrick said that she and Commissioner William Klaassen received incorrect master plans that still showed the park, and that version was still on the website.

Commissioner Brian Ross proposed that the final legal description of the property for sale at 303 S. Water St. be specifically limited to the two investigations made by Project Control Engineering at the end of the third memo sent by Davis and that no other properties should be considered, as well as for the planning commission to readopt the remainder of the property that is not sold into parkland when the master plan discussion is next convened.

The committee voted to approve the motion in a 4-2 vote, with Hendrick and Klaassen dissenting.

“I don’t believe in selling anything from this property,” Hendrick said.

The city received two purchase contracts for the sale of the Guy Center, and both bid amounts were again removed from the agenda. The commissioners received papers with the amounts of the offers.

“The reason we always keep bid amounts confidential is that in the event that you don’t decide to go with one of these bids, we still want to protect the city’s interest in getting the best price for the property,” Clerk Shannon Adams said.

City Manager Holly Tatman said the two offers were relatively close.

“We have a contingency; we don’t,” she said. “Both are cash offers; both want relatively quick sales, or closures, as I understand it, on that.

She said if there was an agreement on any of the offers, she would work with Davis on a finalized purchase deal to bring back to the commission.

“But those were the only two offers we got,” she said. “I came back after the last meeting and asked for the best and the best and both stayed with the original offers. They haven’t changed.

Hendrick asks if any of the offers still include the use of parking spaces on Water Street. Tatman said yes, adding that she had told the real estate agent to tell the potential buyer that the Water Street parking lot was finished, but the commission might consider parking on Washington Street. The bid with the parking space condition was the higher of the two bids.

Hendrick said she didn’t think it was a good idea to give the potential buyer parking. The commissioners accepted.

“We cannot set a precedent,” said Mayor Cheryl Vercammen. “We’re just going to open a Pandora’s box.”

“Especially if other community businesses came here and asked for it and it was turned down,” Tatman said. “That would be problematic.”

Vercammen asked if the potential buyer would still buy the property without the parking lot. Tatman said she didn’t know, but they wouldn’t let the seats drop on the highest and best bid.

Commissioner Wendy Kellehan asked what the formula would look like to determine how much money from the sale of 303 S. Water St. should go to a community center.

Davis said a proportion will have to be made of how the money grows over time versus calculating when the city made the transaction. The town used some of the money bequeathed by the Guy family combined with money from the general fund. He said that will be determined when the city knows the purchase price.

“Contrary to popular belief, no one left the Guy Center for you,” he said. “They left you two two-lot plots in the city. You took those lots and sold them on the open market and then used that money, combined with money from the general fund, to buy 303.”

Hendrick said she thought both offers were too low.

“I think at the end of the day we would always like to get a higher number, but in the months that this property has been on the market, those are the only two offers that have come in,” Tatman said. “You are playing a game when dealing with real estate. Could you get more? Maybe. But you might also get less, and those were the only two people who showed up.

She said the alternative is to let the building sit vacant.

Ross asked if officials had any idea what potential buyers wanted to do with the property. Tatman said the two offers were similar.

“The lowest I know of interest was a high-end Airbnb,” she said. “I don’t know if it would be one or if it would be split and there would be, like, two inside, I don’t know, but the intent was to keep the building, which I know was a big thing for the city because it’s a historic building, and the structure would remain.

She said the second potential buyer had also expressed interest in making it an Airbnb, but wasn’t sure that was the end result because she hadn’t had a direct conversation with them.

“Both buyers have an interest in the downtown historic district,” Tatman said. “They liked the architecture of the building, so I think all they’re looking to do is something that will encompass the current structure.”

She said neither person had expressed any interest in adding a floor and the back patio was the only thing discussed.

Mayor Pro Tem Jacob Bryson made a motion to accept the highest bid to purchase which removes the parking space condition. The committee voted 4-2 to approve the motion, with Hendrick and Klaassen dissenting.

“I also want to say publicly that I never voted to sell this building,” Hendrick said.

The amount of the offer is expected to be made public when the offers are final.

Aurora J. William