Despite concerns, council hands Riverfront site over to Polygon
EVERETT - The City Council had some concerns before voting last week to approve the transfer of development rights of the Riverfront Development to homebuilder Polygon Northwest.
City Council members took issue with last-minute changes to the agreement and the revelation that one of the analysts hired by the city to evaluate the Polygon deal works for a company tied in a land sale to Polygon.
The vote was 6 to 1 to approve the transfer of development rights to Polygon. Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher cast the opposing vote.
Stonecipher said after the meeting that she didn’t feel comfortable approving the transfer after hearing the consultant’s independent analysis put into question. The council doesn’t have enough information yet, she said.
The City Council was notified at the last minute that longtime city-hired analyst Jim Reinhardsen’s Heartland LLC has a hand in a current Polygon land sale.
Reinhardsen wrote to the city that Heartland has never represented Polygon except in one instance: Heartland is currently representing Polygon as a buyer for a land sale in collaboration with one of Heartland’s longtime clients. Reinhardsen is not directly involved with the deal, but he is a principal ownership partner in Heartland.
Stonecipher said the revelation presents a conflict of interest. City attorney Jim Iles disagreed on the basis that Reinhardsen works as a contractor for the city.
Other council members said the issue marred Reinhardsen’s analysis, but they were comfortable with all of the other information they received on Polygon leading up to the vote, including a financial analysis from a certified public accountant.
The city has paid Heartland $1.3 million so far for consulting work on city projects including the Riverfront Development over the past 15 years, chief financial officer Debra Bryant said.
Reinhardsen did not respond to a phone call from the Tribune by press time for clarifying information on the land sale in question.
Additionally, Councilman Ron Gipson balked at the timing of last-minute changes to the agreement revealed right before the vote. Neither the council nor the public had the opportunity to look through the new documents in time, Gipson said.
The agreement places more requirements on Polygon than what previous developer OliverMcMillan faced for developing the site.
Polygon will take on funding and building many of the public amenities originally assigned to the city if the transfer of the property is completed between Polygon and OliverMcMillan. Polygon also has to commit to showing it has the money to build a main spine road from the 41st Street roundabout into the development before it can start building half of the houses it has planned for the site. Polygon wants to build up to 1,400 homes as part of a planned residential development.
The site plan also includes public trails, group picnic shelters, and the city will build a three-acre park.
Polygon also would have to present quarterly updates on construction progress to the City Council and introduce potential commercial tenants before the City Council under the transfer agreement.
The city’s transfer agreement holds Polygon to the same 2017 construction start deadline OliverMcMillan was under.
The agreement transfers the development rights of the stalled 100-acre project along the Snohomish River near the Lowell neighborhood to Polygon from OliverMcMillan, which had grand plans for an upscale development before the recession killed the project. The city wants a combination of housing and commercial tenants on the site.
In April, Polygon presented an aggressive construction timeline to start building houses by 2014 and place commercial tenants by 2016.
Stonecipher has concerns Polygon, which is primarily a homebuilder, wouldn’t be able to attract quality commercial tenants.
Polygon has an Aug. 1 deadline to buy the site from OliverMcMillan. Polygon representatives said they hope to complete the sale in July.
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