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Mayor Foster guides council to defer planning for 640 acre acquisition contingencies at budget’s potential peril, with Yelm citizens still uninformed!

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Story highlights

  • February 5, 2019 Study Session discussion on mayor’s 640 acres contract
  • Possible owners’ default will cost Yelm over $1 million in + interest
  • Foster said acquiring 640 acres for $1 million would be a good deal
  • Yet the city would also be responsible for an LID
  • What would city do with 640 acres, why is there no planning now?
  • Mayor Foster guided council to defer planning until late in 2019
  • Is Yelm about to repeat the 2009-2010 economic downturn adversely affecting budgets?
  • Councilor Stillwell expressed concern on city’s “petal to the metal” spending.
  • Why has this not been publicly discussed – the public remains uninformed?
  • Storm clouds loom on the horizon that could affect city budget!

Editor’s note: On February 19, 2019, I suggested to the Planning Commission that they be updated on the contract that Mayor Foster signed without council approval to acquire a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, covered here last summer. The land owners have until December 2019 to pay multiple years in back-taxes and fees, or default, leaving the city with the 640 acres of land, interest and over $1 million in expenses, plus the LID. The lack of action by the land-owners and recent news items casts doubt on the land owners paying off their debt to the city: On the most recently released real estate statistics for Thurston County, the increase in available properties has now moved into a buyers market, meaning there are more sellers than buyers. In addition, reported last week were stories that national personal credit card debt has skyrocketed and savings have dropped. These are indicative there are storm clouds on the horizon and the city should be prepared for the land’s owners to default. For the city to have a potential of $1 million plus interest in additional expenses and take on the LID responsibility if the land owners default, to not plan and be prepared to handle this massive budget load and disposition of the land is fool-hardy at best!


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The entire manner in which Mr. Foster has handled this 640 deal is the very sign of an exceptionally poor manager. A proper leader would not wait until the end of the year when the contract expires to craft any contingencies! The mayor should be directing the Planning Commission and Community Development now to create committees to craft options for consideration, yet the mayor is protecting the land owners instead of his first responsibility to serve the public interests he took an oath to protect. The city has had no contact with the land owners on their intentions and Foster’s reason for not doing so is unwise. City Administrator Grayum should contact the owners immediately for an update and report to the council, mayor and public!

Bottom line:
If at the end of this year the city is left holding the deed + LID responsibility + interest, that will add a MAJOR burden of over $1 million in expenses to to the city’s balance sheet, plus 2018’s $1 million purchase/renovation of the new city hall building, and required deferred maintenance/upgrades expenses for Public Works. While the land-owners could pay multiple years of backlogged taxes and fees and avoid default, that does not eliminate the need to craft contingency plans if they do not! The city’s future has been mortgaged and is in the cross-hairs if officials do no planning until near the contract December 29, 2019 expiration date.

  • To do nothing until late Autumn is irresponsible
  • To not have this as a public discussion is also irresponsible
  • This city has great minds that should be working on this issue

Click here for my letter to the Yelm Planning Commission.

P. S. Some have suggested the city sub-divide the land and sell to developers if the city ends up possessing the deed outright. Yet even IF the city obtains enough water rights to support housing developments on the 640 acres, the council has already been told the Public Works Dept. needs $11-$17 million to upgrade their water/sewer systems just to today’s standards, an amount the city does not have to invest. Therefore, Public Works does not have the capability, under their current conditions, to add anymore massive home developments to their systems!

Posted by Steve on February 20, 2019 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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