Lastest City Council Spat Centers Over Turtle Bay Land Sale

Image courtesy of Trilogy Architecture.

The Redding City Council found time for one last squabble before new members are seated next month, and on Tuesday the subject again was the sale of 14 acres of land to the McConnell Foundation to allow Turtle Bay to develop a high-end hotel.

At issue Tuesday was the recent revelation of a letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce, dated in April, informing the city that, upon sale of the property, the agency expects to be reimbursed a portion of the $1.6 million grant it awarded Redding in 1995 to help fund improvements to the museum site.

The so-called “clawback” clause would be 74 percent of the property’s fair market value, or $327,000 based on the highest of three appraisals, which was $443,000.

Outgoing Councilman Patrick Jones, who has opposed the land sale, is upset that the letter from the Economic Development Administration was not made public prior to the Nov. 4 elections when city voters passed Measure B, a referendum approving the sale to McConnell for $600,000.

Tuesday’s brouhaha centered over whether to discuss the letter and pending sale—including Redding contractor Alan Shufelberger’s last-minute offer of $1 million, which had expired Oct. 28—in public or in executive session behind closed doors.

In the end, the issue was not discussed in open or closed session, but that didn’t prevent a few sparks from flying.

Councilman Gary Cadd, who also opposes the sale, moved to bring the negotiations into the public portion of the meeting for the sake of “transparency and accountability.” He accused City Attorney Rick Duvernay of using Shufelberger’s “null and void” offer as an excuse to move discussion of the EDA letter behind closed doors.

“Everybody needs to hear this,” Cadd said, turning in his seat to remind the audience that he campaigned on the promise of transparency while adding that he thought Duvernay “was trying to pull something.”

Jones also lobbied for a public discussion and reminded Mayor Rick Bosetti that he and Cadd had both requested a special meeting to consider Shufelberger’s offer prior to the Nov. 4 election but Bosetti nixed that idea.

“Tonight we have an opportunity to discuss the issue and it should be done in open session,” Jones said.

Bosetti, who served on the city’s negotiating team along with Duvernay and City Manager Kurt Starman, said the EDA letter will not affect the sale and agreed with Duvernay that the transaction will not trigger the “clawback” since the sale is in the same spirit as the original EDA grant since it is intended to benefit the nonprofit museum.

Instead, he expressed dismay at the tone of the accusations of trickery. “When you have people who have to have a boogeyman—this is Redding, not Gotham—when you have people who believe our purpose is to mislead 90,000 people in the city of Redding, you have meetings like this. It’s very distressful.”

Duvernay said the EDA letter is a matter of public record and that if the media or public wanted to know about it, all they had to do was ask. When Jones asked why the council was kept in the dark about the letter, Duvernay said in his opinion it did not rise to the level of importance that would require alerting the entire council.

The city attorney added that under terms of the sale agreement, McConnell has indemnified Redding for any contingencies related to the sale, including the clawback clause in the event the EDA does require the reimbursement. The foundation could also wait until June 26, 2015, when the 20-year clause expires, Duvernay said.

After a motion to bring the matter before the public failed on a 3-2 vote, the council voted 5-0 to remove it completely from Tuesday’s agenda.

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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