“Gilbert Paid Millions Too Much for Land, Appraisal Says.” So reads the title of the 1/8/2011 Arizona Republic article written by Parker Leavitt, who first began reporting on the Council’s Zinke Land Acquisition back in September 2010. At that time, land experts had advised Parker that Gilbert overpaid by millions for this property when the Council approved the purchase back in January 2009. The experts were right.
An independent appraiser recently confirmed that the land, which was purchased without an appraisal, was overpaid by $8.6 million. “Three sitting Town council members, up for re-election this spring, voted to approve the land deal: Les Presmyk, Dave Crozier, and Linda Abbott,” stated Parker. You can read the entire article here: http://www.azcentral.com/community/gilbert/articles/2011/01/08/20110108gilbert-land-deal-overpriced.html
The Town paid $300,000 per acre back in January 2009 for 142.5 acres of land in South Gilbert, to be used for a park in about 17 years. The seller, Mr. Zinke, “wasn’t interested,” in mid-2006. This was, coincidentally, when home prices were rocking and rolling. They were still high as a kite in the beginning of 2007. By mid-to-late 2007, it was obvious (to most people, that is) that the housing bubble had burst and prices were dropping like a rock.
It was in early 2008 that Mr. Zinke picked up the phone to see if former Town Manager George Pettit was “still interested in the deal.” Curious timing, wouldn’t you say? Doesn’t that make you wonder, “Why is Mr. Zinke suddenly a “willing” seller in early 2008, but was an “unwilling” seller in 2006? By 2008, two large parcels near Mr. Zinke’s farm went for $40k per acre and the other for $35k per acre.* Think about it, 2008 was so devastating that Republicans turned Independent, and Barack Obama became President. Remember?
Yet, the Town Staff and Council soldiered on through 2008 in the midst of home foreclosures and a crashing economy and job market, to obtain property overpriced even in 2006. Three Council members, up for re-election in the Spring of 2011, who approved the deal “didn’t know” that the Town had not obtained an appraisal. Let’s be clear: An appraisal is no substitute for situational awareness. It is no substitute for good judgment.
*Arizona Republic. 09/09/2010 "Experts Blast $42.7 Million Price Gilbert Paid for Future Parkland." Parker Leavitt.