The owner of more than 400 acres in the Twin Buttes region again is offering a portion of the land to the city of Durango for an open-space purchase, but even at a reduced price of $3 million, it remains unlikely City Council will approve any purchase.
The land is adjacent to the recently approved Twin Buttes development. Greg Fryback, a broker with the Wells Group who represents the Rasdall family-owned Perins Peak Ranch near Twin Buttes, has made several offers to sell the land to the city, the most recent for $6.5 million.
However, several of the parcels are in foreclosure, and at Tuesday night's meeting Fryback made a direct plea to city councilors.
"I am here to say 'What a deal do I have for you guys,'" Fryback said during the public-participation portion of the meeting.
Fryback then gave a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation and offered two of the parcels - the 59-acre South Butte and the 200-acre Highland Meadows - for $3 million. He said the two parcels are both potential sites for development and a city purchase would ensure a continuous stretch of open space west of the city to protect wildlife migration routes between the state-owned Perins Peak and Bodo Wildlife Management Areas.
"This is the piece that's missing," Fryback said.
Fryback's presentation was not well-received by the majority of the council. Councilors Leigh Meigs and Doug Lyon admonished Fryback for what they deemed an inappropriate "sales pitch."
On Wednesday, Meigs reiterated her concerns and said an open public meeting is not the appropriate forum for business negotiations.
"I'm not going to comment on real estate matters that should be the subject of executive sessions," Meigs said, referring to the publicly noticed but closed-door proceedings in which business and personnel matters are routinely discussed among councilors and city staff.
"I think most members of council recognize the sensitivity with which we have to handle real estate matters in the best interest of the community, and this is one of those instances. A direct appeal to City Council should only be reserved for true emergencies, and the dire motivation of the seller is not such an emergency."
Meigs, Lyon and Councilor Scott Graham told Fryback his request should go to the Open Space Advisory Board or city staff and not to council directly. Fryback brought the larger $6.5 million proposal to the open-space board last fall, but the board did not make any recommendation to staff or council.
Fryback said he came to the meeting on the advice of Mayor Renee Parsons, who is in favor of the city negotiating for the purchase of the land. Parsons said she did not specifically invite Fryback, but confirmed she told him in December that the public-participation portion was the appropriate forum.
"What did he do that was so inappropriate? There's absolutely nothing wrong with him coming before the public and putting his proposal to the council. These discussions need to be in the open, and not behind closed doors," Parsons said Wednesday.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc said it is unlikely Rasdall will receive the $3 million price from a potential developer and even less likely the city would or could pay that amount.
He said Twin Buttes is an open-space priority, but Horse Gulch and the Animas River greenway are considered higher priorities. While he will not rule out the possibility of a future recommendation to the council to discuss the Perins Peak Ranch purchase, he will continue to urge patience among the elected officials.
"We have to be ready to accept opportunities as they occur, and he's presenting an opportunity for us to consider," LeBlanc said.
"But in my experience, when you're in a foreclosure process, it's probably in the city's best interest to wait. It's not in the city's best interest to negotiate publicly, but unfortunately he's pushed this into the public arena.
"I've never seen a Realtor come to an open meeting to pitch a property."