Kent council moves Kemp project forward

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Kent City Council voted to reduce the option price to $2,500 on the Kemp Building on Gougler Avenue Wednesday, shaving more than $10,000 off the price council set previously.

Council's finance committee voted 6-1 to accept City Manager Lew Steinbrecher's recommendation to approve a counter proposal from the West Shore Development.

Last month, council voted to ask West Shore to pay $12,750 for an option on the building, more than 12 times the price the developers had originally proposed.

Developers then submitted a counter-proposal offering to pay $2,500 for an option on the building, and also offering to pay half of the cost of an environmental assessment on the property, which is expected to cost about $12,000. While the option payment would be considered part of the building's $255,000 purchase price, the company's share of the assessment, $6,000, would go toward the cost of the building.

Jack Crews, managing partner of the development group, declinded comment until the group has a chance to review the action taken Wednesday.

The matter will be on the agenda at council's March 18 meeting for final approval. If approved, West Shore would then pay $2,500 to quarantee the building would be available for purchase by West Shore. The previous proposal made no mention of an environmental assessment, but Steinbrecher noted such an assessment would be necessary to make the property more marketable.

Councilman Ed Pease cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilman Wayne Wilson, chairman of the committee, did not vote. He still believed a higher price was in order to ensure that the developers are serious.

"We have no indication that we're looking at anything other than a speculative venture because we have so little other information," he said. "A higher option should be required. We're taking a gamble and tying this property up for six months to a year with very little guaranteed."

But Councilman William Schultz said he doesn't believe the proposal is speculative, and noted Steinbrecher had thoroughly researched the matter before making his recommendation.

"We're saying, 'We want economic development to come, so why don't we throw out this proposal and hope someone else comes along,' " he said. "I think there's a saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

Council voted to amend the proposal slightly to allow the option to be extended six months for $2,500 if the developers have submitted site plans for the city to be renewed. The developers had proposed to be able to extend the option with no strings attached after six months.

The option would be automatically extended with no fees if the city has not yet issued permits or if a parking lot adjacent to the building is not started.

Steinbrecher said the parking lot should be built regardless of the status of the Kemp building to facilitate economic development in the West River neighborhood. The lot will be open for public parking and not reserved for tenants or customers at the Kemp building.

"Even without an option in hand, we would need to build that parking lot," he said.

In related business, council's land use committee approved the generalized land use guide for the West River Neighborhood. The guide will be returned to the administration for further review.

The guide calls for limited commercial zoning through most of the triangle area composed of Gougler Avenue, North Mantua Street and West Main Street. Many of the parcels along North Mantua Street would be zoned for single-family homes rather than apartments.

Approval of the plan, however, does not mean zoning in the neighborhood will be changed.

Steinbrecher said the document would be used for the basis for a new zoning district, but would aid in the development of a marketing plan for the properties in the area.

Councilman Jerry Fiala said many people have expressed interest in the area, including people who live on adjacent streets who "have to look at it."

"Everyone left me with the impression that they're glad the city is doing some proactive planning in that area," he said.

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