If developer walks, city wasted $30,000

OlympiaFebruary 27, 2013 

The Olympia City Council recently approved the expenditure of $30,000 to do an environmental study on a downtown piece of property where a developer might put up a five-story senior housing project. On the surface that might seem like a reasonable expense, because more senior housing is a good thing and if the city has surplus property, then why not sell it. Lastly, $30,000 isn’t a huge amount.

The problem I have is that, in the real world, if someone wants to buy property they negotiate a price and then do due diligence, which would include environmental review, at their own expense. Then they decide to buy the property or not.

Having the city pay for the environmental review immediately puts the city (and us taxpayers) at a negotiating disadvantage and leaves the buyer with no skin in the game.

The council majority says that even if this buyer walks, the environmental review may be helpful for any future buyer. That’s not necessarily so, because environmental reviews have a shelf life and a new environmental report may be required.

I understand the difficulty of trying to do something like this by committee or in this case, by council, but I would encourage the city staff to reach out to any of the many good commercial realtors in this area to advise them on how to negotiate something like this.

If this current potential buyer walks, I’m afraid we just wasted $30,000.

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