TAYLOR — It has been 14 months since Town Manager Gus Lundberg told the Taylor councilors they had been offered “an opportunity to purchase approximately 147 acres from Hatch Development in the Taylor Business Park,” located near Pinedale Road and Airport Loop, for $750,000.

The council approved a purchase agreement and Parcel A was purchased for $290,000. With 2019 coming to a close, there is still no closure on Parcel B.

Taylor Business Park, view 1

Taylor Business Park, formerly called the Roy Palmer Business Park, is pictured above. A special meeting was called by the Town of Taylor last week to further discuss the purchase of the business park. Terms were laid out for the purchase of 147 acres for $750,000 to be carried out in two steps – a $290,000 initial payment with the remainder of funds to come at a later date, before closing.

At the December 2018 council meeting – over a year ago – a dark cloud was cast over the business park purchase. Former Taylor councilor Debi Bettis read a letter on behalf of “Concerned Taylor Residents, Property Owners and Tax Payers” at the call to the public – a letter she did not author and later asked to be disassociated with.

In that letter one of the key statements was, “On behalf of the taxpayers of the town, including many who are not even yet fully aware of what is happening … we urge/implore that the council cease any future progress or movement with respect to the purchase and/or acquisition of the business park, including consideration of a loan for it … until it can quickly and easily be made available to the public the exact reason(s) why (it) … has any merit at all. Failure to adhere to this request will leave the citizens no choice than to seek an injunction via whatever legal means available to accomplish the same.”

Several people questioned the necessity of the proposed business park purchase at a contentious January 2019 work study session held for the Taylor Business Park proposed purchase. Questions were raised about whether the town had a current appraisal, and Richard Franco, the author of the letter Bettis read, asked more questions regarding the reason for the purchase at $5,000 per acre.

The Town of Taylor was later cited in May by the Attorney General’s Office for three open meeting law violations regarding the work study session.

Though Lundberg said they disagreed with the AG’s ruling, the town agreed to open meeting law training which took place in June.

Now the ad-hoc group called Concerned Residents of the Town of Taylor have retained legal counsel and a letter was sent to mayor and council via email and U.S. Mail Nov. 7. Again, the group asked the town to not proceed with the purchase of Parcel B, stating:

“The entire process surrounding the Town’s acquisition of Parcel A and contracting to purchase Parcel B violated Arizona law and so the actions are null and void (A.R.S. 38-431.05). Demand is hereby made that the Town cease and desist from proceeding with the purchase of Parcel B for $460,000 from Hatch Development until the Town complies with the law by 1) holding a meaningful council workshop meeting that complies with the law; 2) conducting another Town Council vote on the issue after the workshop; 3) disqualifying Councilman Hatch from voting on the issue; and 4) if approved, waiting 30 days for the approval to become final.

“Please be advised that proceeding with the purchase of Parcel B without complying with Arizona law will subject to Town to legal liability.”

Following the letter, a meeting took place on Dec. 4 in Scottsdale between Taylor Town Attorney William Sims and Lundberg and Attorney C. Adam Buck with RADIX LAW and Alice Solomon Franco Wethington, aka Alice Franco, and Richard Franco.

Taylor business park 2

The unimproved dirt road named Airport Loop Road runs north-south through the 147-acre Taylor Business Park. The “park” is essentially raw land and does not contain improved roads, water lines or empty office buildings.

Since the meeting date, Franco said that there has been no response from Sims or Lundberg. The Concerned Residents of the Town of Taylor are not giving up on this issue.

Franco said, “I have nothing to lose; I am driving the bus.”

Last February, the Independent asked for an update on the project. Lundberg said the survey had not been completed and the bank was still working out details for the lease-purchase; he also said he had not spoken with the attorney yet. He confirmed at that time the town was moving forward with the purchase.

In April the town approved accepting an easement to improve Airport Loop Road which runs north-south through the business park. Before that meeting Lundberg told the Independent, “The road has been slightly taken care of and we are asking the council to to consider maintaining it since we are so close to owning it.”

Nothing was agendized regarding the business park for the remainder of the year.

Neither Lundburg or Smith responded to the Independent’s request for an update on the Taylor Business Park proposed purchase as of Monday, Dec. 30. See more coverage on our website.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(3) comments

Bob Smith

Kudos to the Francos for standing up to the Good Ol Boy Club and Barbara Bruce for excellent reporting on this issue. This is so incredibly blatant and blemishes the reputation of Taylor and the Hatch Family. Palmer's explanation is like something from a fairy tale book; where is ALL the money going to come from to fix those flood issues and roads sir? What sort of long term liability are you signing your kids and grandkids up for? So glad I live in Snowflake with superior leadership and a council that cares about the voters and taxpayers. And I'll say it again; nobody in Taylor reads the paper or has any clue what's going on and they like it that way...sad!

xpdsniper

You people need to fill out a hurt feelings report. Out of towners comprise most of the group fighting this. The town has the peoples best interest in mind willing to take on a stagnant development to help alleviate problems good existing businesses are experiencing. As far as the flood issues the town got FEMA grants to take care of that and will benefit those in existing flood zones along 500, 600 & 700 West Streets, and downstream toward Main from the business park. With the Town being in control they can make things easier for future developers to possibly take smaller pieces to develop. The real-estate bubble caused people and towns all over the state to face similar situations. Get over it crybabies.

Bob Smith

Sniper, I disagree with you but will not call you school yard names nor try to pin the blame for this mess on non-residents. Just asking questions here please be civil and check your facts.

Who are these “out of towners” you are blaming for exposing this - the reporter for the Independent or the locals who hired the attorney? Speaking your mind about how government spends money is a right of every taxpayer, agreed?

According to the reporter the town of Taylor has paid $260,000 in the past 10 years to avoid litigation and wash their hands of this land - the owner has already benefited from the town once and seeks to do so a second time on the same piece of land for more than three times the value. What part of that sounds even remotely legit?

Bank loans require appraisals - this is standard practice but the council doesn’t want one performed. It appears Mayor Smith and the council want to quietly cut a check to the Hatches but it’s really hard to say since the negotiations were done in secret in violation of Open Meeting Laws and zero transparency. Why so secret? If it’s such a great deal the appraisal will validate the proposal and the council would have nothing to hide. One would think if this was such a great idea it would be on the council agenda and being discussed openly so they taxpayers could understand it better, right?

If the property is so valuable why aren’t one of the local entrepreneurial families jumping in to add it to their holdings and do what this country is founded on; capitalism is the driving economic force in this country and we didn’t get that way by government taking over failing businesses and “fixing” them. Example: a prominent local family just added ACE Hardware to their portfolio - the town didn’t have to save it after the owner passed away did they? Let the free market do it’s thing...that’s how we do it in America.

You state “the town got FEMA grants to take care of that” Great! If they already fixed the flooding problem why buy the land? According to vice mayor Palmers remarks all that flooding is still an issue is he mistaken? If you’re correct then what the heck did they spend the FEMA grants on?

One of the reasons you provide for having the taxpayers bail out the Hatches (again) is that the business park is “stagnant.” The purpose of raising taxes is to support infrastructure and benefit the citizenry - not buy up stagnant businesses and turn them around. Perfect example is the golf course in Snowflake. The town “had” to buy it to “save” it from closure and not we’re stuck paying for greenskeepers, maintenance and new equipment for something that loses money every year. Is that a responsible use of taxpayer dollars sir?

Thanks for listening.

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