The Gainesville City Council unanimously tabled consideration of a lease proposal with Orison Holdings for Locke Field after lengthy public comments by a representative from Granite Industries, owner of Black Hill Farm, during Tuesday’s meeting.
Lisa Dritschler urged council members to vote against the lease proposal with Orison Holdings and accused the deal as “a part of a backroom deal that is quite literally one-one thousandth of what it should be” and asked, “Do you really want to be part of this very questionable sweetheart deal?”
“I don’t understand this, but they seemed to think that council was trying to choose between these two options,” Gainesville city manager Barry Sullivan said Wednesday morning. “Since August of 2014 we have been working on this proposal (with Orison Holdings) and by the time we got it all buttoned up and ready to present to council, Black Hill Farm presented their plan.”
“Just because someone else comes up with a plan doesn’t mean you stop and not complete the proposal process.”
Granite Industries plans construction of the Black Hill Farm project, The Heritage, a four-story development that is part of a 200 acre, mixed use, master planned community, located near North Central Texas College. Dritschler told the council Tuesday that their independent study “revealed the rental market in Gainesville can only support one project of this magnitude.”
“Knowing this and having already approved one project, why is this even on the agenda? Why jeopardize our work when we have spent millions in this community, in favor of someone who has yet to spend a cent?”
“We were not aware that Black Hill was aggressively going after the apartments until March 5,” Sullivan said Wednesday morning. “Both these projects finished up at the same time and approached us.”
Dritschler told council members, “The Heritage at Black Hills Farm apartment community is not a “one hit wonder. It is an integral part of our overall planned development that you’ve already approved. We just closed on an additional 35 acres last week bringing our project to approximately 200 acres. Our Phase 1 With 43 residential lots is already under construction. We’ve asked for zero incentives form the city, no tax abatement, no infrastructure participation, no incentive.”
“Council was made aware of it (Black Hills) at this (Tuesday) meeting,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “As far as creating an equal playing field -- this lease is not about creating an equal playing field -- this lease is about leasing out Locke Field. The council has to decide it. Since there are now two options for multi-family development, we have to look at how this one lease impacts the city as a whole. And ultimately if the lease is still needed or not.”
“Why would the city entertain costly incentives when they already have approved an apartment development in Black Hill Farm with no incentives,” Dritschler asked council.
Orison Holdings seeks a tax abatement for their development. “They turned an application in for one, but that is not tied to the lease,” Sullivan said. “The lease does not tie to a tax abatement. To consider a tax abatement by our guidelines you have to already have a lease in place. Just because you ask for one doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. The lease does not tie the city or anyone else in to providing a tax abatement. That’s not legal. You have to go through another tax abatement process.”
“We are still going through the proposal process,” Sullivan said. “That’s what last night would have done, ended it or kept it going. Council tabled it to take in the new development that Black Hill Farm has begun.”