By Mark Barnes
Not only were bidders scratching their heads at a December land sale of properties owned by the city of Kuna, but city councilmembers seemed confused as to what to do as well. As expected, none of the properties received minimum bids needed to cover the amount due the banks for the attached Economic Development Units (EDUs). The city was then allowed to consider other offers for the land, after stripping the EDUs and returning them to the lien holders on the property. In this instance, Key Bank held the notes.
In what seemed to be a very confusing process for both City Council and the parties involved lasting over several public hearings and special meetings, the Kuna City Council eventually managed to sell the properties. One parcel, a 19.84 acre lot on E. King Road, received a single offer that was accepted by council. Two connected parcels, one 52.12 acres and the other 107.43 acres on Swan Falls Road south of E. King Road, being sold as a pair had two interested bidders. Both parties made almost equal low bids for the properties in a process that took several hours beginning after the public auction, then postponed until after the city council meeting scheduled that same night was adjourned.
The debate on the sale of the second two parcels slowed the meeting to a crawl with nobody sitting on council seeming to know what to do. The discussions first centered around land use. As long as the two offers were the same, how were the parties who wanted to buy the property going to use them? One wanted to farm the land with the hopes of developing the property for residential use later. The other wanted to develop 440 residential properties right away. The parcels already had a developer plat filed with the city so a great deal of the process of filing residential development paperwork was already completed. One of the two properties already had infrastructure such as sewer lines, water and electrical already in place making it unusable for farming anyway.
Councilmembers questioned the legitimacy of the speed at which the developer could actually get the job done. And, although building is on the rise, when considering that less than 400 new residential building permits have been filed in the last four years, their concerns had some legitimacy.
The city council was not required to accept the larger of the two bids, but to accept the one that would be in the best interest of the city. All proceeds from the sales were to be turned over to the lien holders anyway. The city would receive no financial benefit from the sales other than getting rid of surplus land.
Councilmember Briana Buban-Vonder Haar made two motions to sell the property to the developer during the process but they both died for lack of a second. No other suggestions by any councilmember were suggested to move the process forward. Round and round the debate kept going.
Eventually, it was decided that sealed bids would be accepted by 3 p.m. the next day and a second meeting to select the winner was scheduled the following day. In the meantime, Key Bank, who held the notes on both properties, advised that they wanted to see the higher bid accepted.
After the bids were unsealed, it was determined that the party interested in farming the property put in the higher of the two bids beating the developer’s bid by $65,000. In a three-to-one vote, the council accepted the higher of the two offers. Councilmember Briana Buban-Vonder Haar voted against accepting the offer citing that the best option for the city was to select the ready-to-go developer. This would bring tax revenue into the city from new residents faster.
“It’s about fairness,” said Councilmember Richard Cardoza. “I was afraid there would be a lawsuit in the way it was handled. I think it should have been done in a professional way with a sealed bid. I understand what Briana was saying in what is best for the city. But in fairness to the bidders, I think we have to take the highest bid.”