The End of The Road -- Or Is It? Print
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 21 November 2000 18:00
On November 15, 2000, the conclusions of the 53rd & Eastern Ad Hoc Committee were presented to the Davenport City Council. by committee member Michelle Magyar upon the entire committee’s request. The Ad Hoc Committee included Aldermen Tom Englemann (Chairman), Roland Caldwell, Wayne Hean, and Bob McGivern; Michelle Magyar (Citizens United for Responsible Vision—CURV); Roman Schultz (Architect); Jack Caffery (Parks & Recreation Board); John Gardner (Davenport One); Dan Huber (Davenport One); Greg Lundgren (Friends of Davenport Library); and myself, Kathleen McCarthy (River Cities’ Reader); as well as city staff Clayton Lloyd (Community and Economic Development), Kent Kolway (Finance), and John Martin (Legal Counsel). Ms. Magyar’s summary of the ad hoc committee’s activities and conclusions over a 6-month period is as follows:

“Appointed by Mayor Phil Yerington on April 5, 2000, the 53rd & Eastern Avenue Ad Hoc Committee has met over the last several months to examine the various alternatives to be pursued by the City of Davenport in relation to real estate acquired by the City at the northwest corner of 53rd Street & Eastern Avenue. The committee approached its task in the following manner and with the following results.

Step I: Develop evaluation criteria upon which each alternative option should be considered. Many early meetings of the committee were spent developing a list of criteria by which each alternative plan for the area could be objectively considered. On May 15, 2000, the committee presented its list of evaluative criteria before the City Council, at which time input on these criteria was requested and received by citizens. The committee’s final list of evaluative criteria is as follows:

Any plan adopted by the City of Davenport for the 53rd & Eastern Avenue area should attempt to:

• avoid City exposure;

• achieve shared costs between the City and benefited parties;

• achieve value to the community at large;

• achieve the creation of public open space;

• provide the opportunity for citizen input;

• include a complete description of it’s method of financing;

• consider the feasibility of use (i.e. market demand, financing, etc.);

• be executed in a timely manner;

• achieve conformance to the City’s comprehensive plan.

Step II. Develop a list of potential alternative plans for the area.

The committee then set out to develop a list of alternative uses and options to be considered within the prescribed area. The committee’s attempt was to include alternative plans that represented the range of options available to the City. The range of alternative plans that were developed through committee discussions are summarized as follows (in no particular order):

Option A: Sell all 218 acres of City owned property at 53rd Street & Eastern Avenue.

Option B: Retain all 218 acres of City owned property until its use/disposition can be considered in conjunction with the City’s new Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Option C: Retain all 218 acres for development as a civic/recreational area.

Option D: Retain all City owned property except acreage fronting 53rd Street (approximately 32 acres) for development as a civic/recreational area.

Option E: Retain all 218 acres and develop an 18-hole golf course through a public/private partnership.

Option F: Sell most of the City owned property, retaining 40+/- acres for development as a civic/recreational area.

Step III: Gather facts and information relative to the 53rd Street & Eastern Avenue issue.

The committee utilized information gathered and presented by staff, as well as by committee members, to assist in their evaluation of the above alternatives. While the committee was able to ascertain certain facts as they related to the area, some information sought by the committee could not be conclusively determined. Two such unknown variables remain.

Land Value. In order to ascertain the value of the City owned property if it were to be sold by the City, an appraisal was performed, and its results presented to the committee. The appraisal included the following assumptions: 1) that the land should be sold in large lots, not broken into smaller development parcels; and 2) that the land would be sold as is, with no further improvements made by the City. While the resultant appraisal numbers were utilized in the committee’s financial analysis of the alternatives, it was agreed that this appraisal represented minimum value to be considered for the property, with some committee members presenting information that concluded higher land sale values could likely be anticipated.

65th/67th Street. The committee examined documents and considered information provided by staff relating to whether a contractual agreement had been made by the City and an area property owner with respect to the construction of the proposed 65th/67th Street to the north of the City owned property. While no conclusion could be reached as to the City’s contractual obligation, the committee discussed the merits of whether a street should be constructed, and, if one is to be constructed, what type of street should be considered, through what path this street should be positioned, and what options are available for its financing.

Step IV: Consider the merits of each option as they relate to evaluative criteria developed in Step I.

The majority of the committee’s time was spent in the process of evaluating each of the alternatives as they relate to the criteria initially set forth by the committee. The committee utilized information gathered and presented by staff, as well as by committee members, to assist in their evaluation. A summary of discussions and conclusions as they related to each alternative, as well as a comparative financial analysis are available for the council’s and the public’s review. During this stage of the process, individual committee members made presentations to the committee that provided additional insight into the options under consideration. While these positions may not have been supported by a consensus of committee members, they are also available for review.

Step V: Present the committee findings via public meetings.

In mid-September, the committee conducted four public meetings held on two separate evenings. At these meetings, citizens were presented with copies of the committee’s evaluations of options A through F. These meetings were facilitated by City staff members, and attended by members of the committee, as well. At the conclusion of each meeting, attendees were provided with six cards representing each of the six options, and six colored dots, and were asked to indicate their preference for one or more of the six options by placing some or all of their dots on the card representing their choice. The results of these community meetings are reported in a memorandum at the end of this presentation.

Step VI: Consider the citizen input and conclude evaluation process.

Final committee meetings were spent evaluating information resulting from its community meetings and attempting to summarize the findings of the committee. It is the committee’s conclusion that each potential alternative use for City owned property at 53rd Street & Eastern Avenue contains its own variety of advantages and disadvantages, and that, subsequently, no one alternative could receive conclusive committee support. However, the committee offers the following conclusion and recommendation with regard to any potential use or action to be taken by the City of Davenport in this area:

The City owned property at 53rd & Eastern Avenue offers strong opportunities for civic and recreational uses by the City of Davenport; and, This site offers the City of Davenport the potential to encourage the development of the entire area in a manner that promotes sound planning principles through a variety of mixed land uses; and, Until such planning is in place, the City should be sensitive to the impact that adjacent land uses will have on this site and vice-versa. The City Council is encouraged to work together with area landowners to insure consistent and sound growth of the entire 53rd & Eastern area.” Committee Proposals.

Three of the six land use options had formal proposals presented to the committee by individual committee members and can be obtained by contacting Alderman Tom Englemann, who acted as chairman of the committee.

The first proposal (Option D) was made by Jack Caffery, who sits on the Park & Recreation Board, for utilizing most of the land as a large park with a myriad of public amenities including baseball and soccer fields, a swimming pool, a recreational center, a branch library, bike paths, and picnic areas. The cost to the City is estimated at $11 million over a six-year period.

The second proposal (Option E) was presented by Bob McGivern for a public/private golf course, where the City would own the land, but the golf course would be owned and operated by private investors. The City would make some public improvements to the area, but the majority of the development would be absorbed by the private sector. The estimated cost to the City is $9 million.

The third proposal (Option F) came from Michelle Magyar and involved selling most of the land to recoup the City’s expenditures relative to the area, including the purchase of land for $3 million and an additional $1 million in associated costs. Approximately 40 acres could be retained for public amenities, but the primary focus of the proposal was to introduce sustainable growth principals, such as mandatory green space and conservation ordinances, to any development that occurs at the site as a first step to smart growth in Davenport.

Alderman Caldwell supported selling all the land to recoup all the City’s previous investment (Option A), while John Gardner advocated holding on to all the property and doing nothing (Option B) until the City finished updating its Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLEP).

As mentioned in Ms. Magyar’s summary, two predominate issues plagued the committee. The first was whether or not the City is obliged to construct a road connecting 65th and 67th Streets across to Eastern Avenue. In a purchase agreement (December 15, 1997) between the City and Eastern Avenue Commercial Developers (EACD), the City bought approximately 50 acres, the first of 640 acres needed for the eventual development of the City’s planned 53rd & Eastern Mixed-Use Development project. A provision of the purchase agreement stated that the City would construct “a certain street herein preliminarily named 65th/67th Street. The plan specifications and exact location of said street shall be established by the City.” However, the Mixed-Use Plan is no longer being pursued by the City; therefore the obligation to build the street is also in question. Furthermore, there is ambiguity regarding the validity of the provision against ordinances in place that are in direct conflict with one another. Another concern is whether the previous council actually approved this provision as part of the original purchase agreement.

The bigger issue relative to building the road was whether such construction reflected the City’s current priorities. The street could cost as much as $2.8 million for a road to nowhere because there is no significant development that far north. The money could be put to better use for capital improvements that have a more pressing need. More importantly, if the road were to be constructed, would this encourage further uncontrolled development in the same fashion as that which has already occurred along the 53rd Street corridor?

The second issue dealt with what land values the committee should consider when evaluating the various land use options. An appraisal was done by Mark Nelson, Roy R. Fisher, Inc. (an Iowa certified appraiser), resulting in values that ranged from as low as $17,500 per acre to as high as $30,000 per acre. The entire 218 acres the City now owns in the project area appraised at $4 million to $4.5 million. However, other evidence supports much higher values for the area, especially certain frontage acres on 53rd Street. Neighboring properties recently sold for as high as $80,000 per acre of improved land. Even at a lesser value of $2 to $3 per square foot for unimproved land, the overall valuation would be significantly higher.

Certainly the higher valuations would significantly impact the financial projections of each of the alternatives. Ms. Magyar, using the appraiser’s valuations and the financial data provided by Kent Kolway relative to expenses and bond debt, constructed a financial comparison chart for each option to show the various revenue streams and costs associated with the various components of each land use plan. However, the committee never engaged in any meaningful analysis or dialogue about such finances, nor did the committee weigh the various costs against revenues and/or benefits. Therefore no conclusions were arrived at by the committee relative to the feasibility of any of the plans, so it will be up to the council to review the financial comparison chart that includes this critical data and consider it for themselves.

Finally, if the council chooses to do nothing with the land and wait for the CLEP to be updated (approximately two years), they are asked to consider the cost of waiting (available in the financial comparison chart). More importantly, development around the City’s 218 acres will impact the property’s future value and should be largely on the Council’s radar screen as projects come forward. The opportunity to apply sustained growth principals for any development in this area has never been better, whatever the outcome should be.