Do you live in Star Valley? Want to help decide what happens to a prime piece of real estate?
Feel free to chime in then, since the Star Valley Council has no idea what to do with the foreclosed property it bought in May west of town hall on Highway 260. You may have noticed the property before, white rocks spelled out “S.V.” in large letters on a hill in the yard. The rocks are gone now and the home boarded up and plastered with “No Trespassing” signs.
The council had dreamed of transforming the property’s home and barn into meeting and office space, to relieve the cramped quarters in town hall thanks to the addition of a water department.
The existing parking lot barely holds council member and staff vehicles during meetings. On the off chance someone else attends, the lot turns into a game of parking Tetris.
The adjacent five-acre property the town bought for $200,000 offers room to stretch out, including a larger town hall, additional parking and maybe a picnic table.
But a general contractor delivered bad news Tuesday. The existing home isn’t worth its weight in scrap, said Gary Jones with the JFC Company.
“Everything about the actual guts of the residence is old,” he said. “I am sure it is infested with plenty of rats and stuff like that and there is evidence of that.”
A partial list of issues includes: Outdated avocado green bathrooms; creaky floorboards; a fallen tree on the roof; narrow stairwells; out-of-code plumbing and wiring and signs of animal inhabitants.
“The foundation itself? Who knows. The framing? Who knows.”
Jones recommended knocking it down and starting fresh.
“It is going to take a lot of money (to update it) … personally, I don’t think it is worth it,” Jones said. “You still wind up with an old building.”
After hearing Jones’ assessment, the council debated its next move.
Ideas thrown out included just selling the whole thing, selling half the land to Plant Fair Nursery and leveling the structures and sitting on it.
Mayor Ronnie McDaniel said Plant Fair Nursery owner Glen McCombs had called about buying the property if the town didn’t want it anymore.
Plant Fair, McCombs explained, is landlocked and could use the room.
Councilor Gary Coon said he knew McCombs had wanted to buy the property, but couldn’t secure the funds in time for the foreclosure sale.
If the town decides it doesn’t want the property, it should give McCombs the first opportunity to make an offer on it, Coon said.
Mayor Ronnie McDaniel agreed.
But does the town really want to sell?
The council could not agree.
Councilors Vern Leis and Coon said they voted to buy the property to improve the town, not to go into the real estate business.
“I wanted to purchase that with the idea, for this town, down the road we would have a spot to put a bigger town hall and a little more room,” Coon said. “Because if we wait until that day arrives it won’t be available so we have to think out of the box.”
Leis said he was all for keeping the property even if the town didn’t do anything with it right away. Vice Mayor Del Newland agreed.
Councilor Barbara Hartwell said she liked the idea of selling half of the lot to McCombs and keeping the rest for a new town hall.
Councilor George Binney said it was too soon to even think about selling the property because the town has not had an appraisal done.
Hartwell and Coon asked McCombs if he could afford all or half of the property.
McCombs said he didn’t know.
“If the council decides you are going to sell it, I would like to entertain it,” he said. “I am not even sure I could afford it.”
Leis said it was clear the council was divided.
“Right now you really don’t know what you want to do with the property,” he said.
“I think right now we are too much up in the air to make a decision,” Hartwell said.
After much discussion, the council voted to table the issue to the Oct. 1 board meeting. Town Manager Tim Grier said he would present research on each option.
But what do the citizens think the town should do with the property? Weigh in during the public comment period.