GUEST OPINION: Baker Garage owner gives his side of land swap

December 07, 2006 11:00 pm

By RANDY DAUGHERTY

During the City Council meeting of November 28, 2006, there was considerable discussion regarding the proposed land exchange between LAMP and Baker Garage. The Baker City Herald article the following day offered an encapsulated listing of the added conditions that would be mandatory to affect the proposed swap.

It is doubtful that many local citizens could understand and/or appreciate the history and details that substantiate the cost estimate summary provided by Baker City at that meeting.

From three hours of deliberations, only one quote was printed in the Herald article, which was: "a sweet deal" for Baker Garage and that it was "practically theft." Such personal attacks are uncalled for and contribute little to the discussions. Since I had recused myself from council discussions regarding the swap it was impossible for me to defend Baker Garage by providing much needed background to so many poorly informed people.

Let me clarify the position of Baker Garage and shed some light on the details of the proposed swap.

In 1998, while exploring ways to expand Baker Garage and its growing vehicle parking needs, I contacted both U.S. Bank and Wescor Properties in an effort to acquire real property to facilitate an expansion. The U. S. Bank property was a seldom used employee and customer parking lot with rapidly deteriorating asphalt surface, at the corner of Resort Street and Washington Avenue.

The Wescor property was a grouping of old houses and buildings which were unoccupied and not fit for occupancy. The Wescor piece directly adjoined U.S. Bank lot. Baker Garage successfully acquired the Wescor property in 2003. Baker Garage was unsuccessful in discussions with U.S. Bank in an effort to purchase their parking lot.

The bank chose to donate the parking lot to LAMP, Inc.

The lack of adequate parking in downtown Baker City has been acknowledged by even those who spoke disparagingly about Baker Garage and is one of the big factors resulting in the loss of a downtown convention center. The addition of diagonal parking supported by these people has arguably caused as many problems as it has solved.

The proposed park will certainly add to the parking problem. The LAMP half of the proposed swap would contribute to the solution of the parking problem. It is contiguous to City property, positioned at a key corner and with access to both Resort and Washington. This parcel was given consideration as a parking lot during the Geiser Grand expansion deliberations and funds were budgeted by Baker City to make the necessary improvements ... if called upon to do so.

Prefaced by the above, I contacted Tabor Clarke and asked if LAMP, Inc. would be interested in exchanging 6,100 square feet of LAMP property for 11,450 square feet of Baker Garage property. Such an exchange would be mutually beneficial to both parties. With LAMP gaining 5,350 square feet, we agreed that it would be fair to attach added conditions. We both agreed that Baker City would be the long term beneficiary of an exchange and asked Baker City for assistance to make this plan a win-win situation for all parties.

The following conditions attached to the swap were derived and based upon drawings prepared by Planmakers of Boise, Idaho, setting forth their suggestions for the Baker City Central Park Project. This plan was not adopted by Baker City. If subsequent proposals being prepared by Anderson Perry radically alter the Planmakers Concept, the considerations listed below could or would be altered accordingly.

Item #1. Fencing

The park plan indicates parallel parking is proposed along the south side of the Baker Garage half of the swap. The natural gradient of the land is toward the river making compacted fill necessary prior to installing a curb and gutter to carry run-off. The fence would preclude the possibility of park visitors having access to parked vehicles on the Baker Garage lot.

Item #2. Security Lighting

Some additions and /or modifications to the existing area lighting will be required. To assign a cost or even have a plan at the time of our discussions with LAMP would be a guess at best since it is impossible to determine the proposed park lighting or the possible benefits obtained from any lighting that the City might provide for the LAMP half of the swap. How the City staff arrived at a figure of $9,000 defies comprehension.

Item #3. Square Off the Property Corner

The small bit of land involved would fit into the bed of a pick-up truck. It must have allowed rear entry access to the Johnson Construction Co. lot now owned by the City.

Item #4. Vacate Alley and Deed to Baker Garage

Through research dating back to 1888, there was never a recorded deed identifying a dedicated alley. This 16 foot wide strip of land is simply an access way for convenience and belongs to the adjoining property owners which Baker Garage owns 90 percent. In addition, Baker City was to deed this parcel to Baker Garage, with clear title, in 2002, as part of the exchange for 140 feet of paved river front property for the pathway. Correspondence between Gordon Zimmerman and Baker Garage dated in June 2002, December 2002, and January 2003, set forth the City's position in this matter. The conditions set forth by the City have been satisfied. The access concern has been removed and the alley should be deeded to Baker Garage.

Item #5. Grade for Drainage, Compact and Pave with Asphalt Unimproved Area

Makes this area useable as an all weather display and storage for Baker Garage vehicles.

Item #6. Re-Pave with New Asphalt Existing Paved Area.

Cost included in Item #5.

Item #7. Provide Baker Garage with a Conditional Use Permit

This item is in the works and will soon be satisfied.

Item #8. Develop Plan, Install Divider between Public and Private Parking Areas

This item may be resolved by the Anderson Perry presentation. If it is not, then Baker City must detail their intended cost of $2,640 for this item before LAMP can proceed to satisfy this condition.

Item #9. All Work to be at No Charge to Baker Garage

No further clarification is required here.

Item #10. Water

A meter vault for Baker Garage is located on Washington. The meter vault for Wescor is located on Resort. It is an unknown at this time just how the City intends to provide water service to the Baker Garage half of the swap.

A cost has been assigned for this item by the City so they must have some idea of just what they intend to do.

Item #11. Complete no later than October 1, 2007.

Costs. The actual cost of this project, without Baker City overhead, is $79,759. LAMP has agreed to pay $63,149 of this cost. A $16,610 cost to Baker City for a prime location, 11,450 square foot piece of real property, is indeed fair.

Overhead. City cost estimates include Engineering 10 percent or $7,976, Administration 9.5 percent or $7,545, Contingency 12 percent or $9,528 for a total of $25,049. These add-ons are outrageous and uncalled for. A complete cost breakdown to substantiate these charges is appropriate.

In November of 2002, I was elected to the Baker City Council to serve a four year term that ends this month. During that time, both my fellow Councilors and I have attempted to do what we thought was best for this community despite the vitriolic comments of those few who spoke at the last meeting and who then wrote letters to the editor.

Frankly, the biggest disappointment for me during my term has been the loss of the Geiser Grand Hotel Convention Center project. We have lost a $2,000,000 project that conservatively would have added 25 additional permanent jobs in the community and pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into our community.

And what was the proposed cost to the taxpayers of Baker City for that project? Simply to increase and improve downtown parking exactly as it is being proposed today.

The fact that this same small group of individuals stood in obstruction to that project is troubling to me. I believe they are clearly the minority and can only hope that someday the voice of the majority in opposition will silence them.

But until those silent citizens are willing to come forward, this town will remain in turmoil. And I strongly believe that rural communities "must either hang together or they shall surely hang separately."