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Land sale termed illegal, but Mayfield, Costello block discussion despite threat of damages

Staff writer

Despite hearing from a League of Kansas Municipalities lawyer that it has no right to sell the land, Marion city council refused on a split vote Monday to reconsider sale of the reserved area in the city’s industrial park.

Council member Ruth Herbel, who had contacted the league, got a firm answer from its lawyer.

“You asked whether the city could sell property reserved in its plat for a specific purpose,” staff attorney John Goodyear wrote Monday afternoon. “The quick and easy answer is that no, the city cannot. When land is transferred to the city and dedicated in the plat for a specific public purpose, the land must be used for that purpose and no other purpose. The city cannot at their discretion use the land for another public purpose or sell the land.”

Goodyear recommended the city attorney look at the plat and the reservation to make sure the land was reserved.

“If so, and the land was reserved for a specific public purpose when the land was transferred, then the city will need to seek legislative action from the state legislature in order to deviate from that purpose,” he wrote.

Although Herbel tried to have Monday’s agenda amended to include discussion of Goodyear’s email, mayor David Mayfield said he’d rather wait until the next meeting.

Herbel said the issue was important enough she would rather not wait because the city could be liable for development costs that could mount during any delay.

Mayfield said the council didn’t have any information.

“I’ve got it all right here,” Herbel answered, pointing to papers she’d brought.

A vote to amend the agenda was split 2-2 with Mayfield and Chris Costello opposed, Herbel and Jerry Kline in favor, and Susan Gray absent.

Asked after the meeting why he was opposed to adding the email to the agenda, Mayfield said, “I don’t like getting blindsided by something. I’d like our attorney to look at it.”

Herbel had received the League of Municipalities email just four hours before the meeting.

Two weeks earlier, Mayfield did not share with council members a letter of protest about the sale even though it had arrived well in advance of assembly of a large packet of information routinely provided to council members the Friday before each meeting.

The letter was included in this meeting’s packet after its existence was revealed in an open records request filed by the newspaper.

Asked to explain his vote, Costello replied: “I didn’t know that it would accomplish anything.”

After the failed vote to discuss Goodyear’s email during the meeting, Herbel came back to the lawyer’s letter at the end of the meeting during time for council comments.

She handed out copies of the subdivision’s official dedication documents and read the entire email aloud.

She then pointed out that, according to the contract Mayfield signed July 26, if the city defaults on its agreement to sell the land, the city is responsible for money spent by the dollar store seeking to buy the land.

Mayfield said he didn’t remember signing the contract, but city administrator Roger Holter said he had. However, the city has not received a version also signed by the dollar store developer.

Economic development director Randy Collett said the League of Municipalities letter wouldn’t necessarily end the sale.

Ruth Lange, who lives near the land the store wants, gave Mayfield a second list of names of people who object to the land sale. This list contained the names of 73 signers.

Lange asked whether anyone had researched the contract with CBC, the real estate company working with the dollar store that wants to buy the property.

Lange said the city could not support three stores that sell groceries.

“We’re already in danger of losing a store,” she said.

After the meeting, Herbel told Costello that if the city was going to default on the sale, it needs to do it soon.

“I can see that you have a valid point,” Costello answered.

The parcel involved is a V-shaped area along Kellison and Roosevelt Sts. at the southwest corner of the industrial park.

It is reserved for drainage, easement, and a buffer area.

Last modified Aug. 25, 2021

 

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