Dear Mayor Lewis, Town Council Members and Town Manager Dewitt:
1. At the 10/7/2010 Council Meeting, Town Manager Dewitt advised that because Mr. Zinke provided many rights of way to the Town at no cost, this drove down the cost of the entire purchase. However, according to the “Chronology of Zinke Land Acquisitions” provided by the Staff at the 9/20/2010 Special Town Council Meeting, that acreage was not part of the 140 acres. The rights of way “were valued” (by whom?) at $10.8 million. In return, the Town purchased assets valued at $7.342 million.
a. What “assets” were purchased?
b. What does the Town plan to do with the assets?
c. If auctioned, please be sure to advise the public how much is netted from the proceeds.
d. Were these rights of way not already dedicated to the Town? Isn’t it customary to ask a developer to dedicate rights of way? (This question was raised by Jerry McBee on 10/7/2010.)
2. Part of the deal involved the Town having to demolish 3 residences and 2 milk barns. Were these items purchased by the Town, only to have to pay for their destruction? How was this calculated into the $42.7 million plus $7.342 million in “assets”?
3. How much in annual property taxes was realized by these properties prior to the purchase?
4. How much in annual property taxes does the taxpayer now pay for this land we own?
5. Was a site survey done to determine if there were hazardous materials present? What provisions were made regarding remediating the property to meet all environmental regulations prior to turning it into a park where children will play?
a. Has any garbage dumping occurred on the property?
b. Are there issues relating to fuel storage and spills?
c. What about pesticide use, storage and spills?
d. How has animal waste been disposed of?
e. What about heavy metals?
6. In a 4/3/2007 Town council meeting, only months after Mr. Pettit asked Mr. Zinke about purchasing 60-80 acres at the SE corner of Germann and Val Vista (same location that is frequently stated as SW corner of Germann and Greenfield), the Town approved rezoning the property from agricultural to residential/shopping center/community commercial.
This rezoning had the effect of increasing the per acre price. It also made it available to developers. Thus, the Council itself increased the value of property in which it had declared an interest in purchasing.
There were many residents who spoke out at this meeting against the rezoning. Yet, the Council voted 6-0 to approve the rezoning.
7. Per the Chronology, in mid-2006, Mr. Zinke was “unwilling” to sell. And then, in early 2008, he had a change of heart and contacted Mr. Pettit. Did the rezoning have anything to do with it?
8. In mid-2008, Mr. Zinke and Mr. Pettit agreed on the price of $300k/acre, which had been offered to Zinke “in 2007 by a major area homebuilder for the same land.” (Recall that the Council had on 4/3/2007 just rezoned the property to residential/shopping center/community commercial.)
Aside from the rather odd practice of increasing a land’s value so you are forced to pay more for it, what does a 2007 per acre offer by a homebuilder have to do with a mid-2008 per acre price agreement? Is this the extent of the “due diligence” that was done to determine the land’s value?
If you want to buy a house in June 2008, would you “arrive at a price of $300k,” because that’s what somebody else offered for the house in June 2007?
9. In early January 2009, the Council also approved the purchase of a 47-acre parcel of parkland near Higley and Queen Creek Roads for $238k per acre.
Did the Town Council of January 2009 ask to see this appraisal? Has the Town Council of October 2010 requested a copy of it? Who performed the appraisal? Was more than one appraisal requested by Town Staff? What was this land’s per acre value?
According to AZ Central, 9/9/2010, “In the months after Gilbert’s deal with Zinke, a 318-acre parcel near Higley and Queen Creek Roads sold for about $35k per acre, and a 549-acre parcel near Val Vista and Riggs Road went for about $40k an acre.”
10. As you review your new Town Ordinance, please consider more than one independent appraisal when purchasing large tracts of land. It was stated in the AZ Central article of 9/9/2010, “…some cities, such as Phoenix and Chandler, often get multiple appraisals before buying any land.”
11. Why would the Town contract as its “independent third party appraiser” an individual who is the consummate Town of Gilbert insider? Marc Barlow has not only been on the Redevelopment Commission for at least a year, he is its current Chairman! If it has been awhile since you purchased a home, you do not have the ability to choose your own appraiser. You get “the luck of the draw” from a pool. Do you think Mr. Barlow will produce anything that is embarrassing to his “friends”? I should think that you would want to distance yourselves from even the hint of impropriety.
12. What about the outside attorney? Is he a friend of the Town Council and Staff, too?