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At a special public hearing Monday, August 24, the Mount Ayr city council rejected an offer from Hy-Vee to purchase the city parking lot located in front of the former Shopko location.
The motion to approve the agreement made by councilman Ken Robertson died for lack of a second.
A second motion by councilman Brent Ricker and seconded by councilman Brad Elliott approved the original purchase agreement but added stipulations to remove Items I and J (see box) from Hy-Vee’s list of restricted uses on its current location and to have all restrictions lifted after 10 years.
The second motion passed on a 4-0-1 vote, with councilman Mack Greene abstaining.
The two motions followed over 40 minutes of discussion on the topic.
During the public hearing, four community members voiced their opposition to the original purchase agreement.
Wiley Main said due to the list of usage restrictions “there’s no conceivable way that building [current Hy-Vee] ever sells… I don’t think the city has any obligation to bend over to Hy-Vee. They’re stifling their own economic development.”
Jodie Geist, director of Ringgold County Economic Development, recalled her statement against the sale from last week’s council meeting, specifically the strict list of restrictions and the lack of any sunset of those restrictions would stifle any interest from a business wanting to go into that building.
Brandon Pearce agreed the usage restrictions were too strict.
“I understand Hy-Vee doesn’t want competition,” he said, “but a little competition never hurt anybody.”
Allison Wallace concurred with the previous speakers, adding “no one wants to see another vacant building on the highway.”
Councilman Brent Ricker said he was under the impression Hy-Vee had removed restrictions listed under Item J in their Declaration of Usage Restrictions.
Mayor Steve Fetty reminded Ricker that at the last council meeting Hy-
Vee representative Phil Hoey had verbally stated restrictions listed in Item J would not apply to Mount Ayr, but that assurance did not appear in writing.
Councilman Brad Elliott restated his concerns with the narrowness of the restrictions and added he would want to see the lifting of certain restrictions as well as the removal of the perpetuity of the restrictions in writing before he would consider moving forward.
It was noted during the discussion that local attorney James Pedersen had offered his legal opinion that the imposition of perpetual usage restrictions, like those in the Hy-Vee document, are illegal under Iowa Code.
“He says the max should be 21 years,” said Elliott. “He told me verbally that Casey’s got 15 years in theirs [usage restrictions].”
Elliott said he felt the council had a responsibility to taxpayers to leverage community property [the parking lot] to ensure that potential future buyers do not have to fight the restrictions on their own.
“I would like to think the city of Mount Ayr went to bat for them [potential buyers] if they have a marketable product,” he said. “The perpetuity [of the restrictions], guys, that’s worse than radioactive.”
Councilman Robertson reminded those in attendance that Hy-Vee could actually purchase the Shopko building and end up using the city parking lot for free, as did Shopko. In that event, the old Hy-Vee would still remain vacant and under all announced restrictions regardless of the council’s wishes.
Near the end of the discussion, the council sought the advice of legal counsel Seth Delutri on whether it could pass the purchase resolution but add two contingencies: 1) the removal of Items I and J from the list of restrictions and 2) include a sunset date of 10 years on all restrictions.
Delutri said he felt the city was within its rights to offer such an amended resolution.
At that point the council approved Ricker’s amended resolution, this concluding the issue for now.