Review covered agreements with Lloyd family
By Ann McCreary
After a lengthy review of the history of the Twisp Business Park and the public/private partnership between the town and the Lloyd family, which owns the undeveloped property, Twisp officials say they found no loose ends.
“Following a tedious review, we have determined that all contractual obligations between the town and the Lloyd family … have been sufficiently completed as of 2004,” said Mayor Soo Ing-Moody and council member Hans Smith in a written statement issued at last week’s council meeting.
Ing-Moody and Smith spent several weeks reviewing contracts, resolutions, ordinances and legal actions to develop an overview of the business park history, which spans about 23 years and numerous town administrations.
The 110-acre property on Twisp’s east side remains undeveloped, although more than $1 million in site preparation work was completed through state loans obtained by Twisp as part of a public/private partnership with the Lloyd Development Company, the property owner/developer.
The review of the business park history was prompted by questions raised by some town residents following the decision last year by the Lloyd family to rescind a promised easement on the undeveloped property for part of a recreational trail planned by the town.
The trail easement would have followed the route of the former Wagner Street about one-third of a mile along the east bank of the Methow River heading north from Highway 20. The town vacated Wagner Street in at the request of Lloyd Development in 1995 as part of the plans for the business park.
Many citizens at that time questioned the loss of the public shoreline access and even filed a lawsuit challenging the street vacation, which was subsequently upheld in court.
In the wake of the Lloyd family’s decision last year to withdraw the promised trail access along the river, questions about the street vacation and the unrealized business park have resurfaced.
The proposed industrial/business park development was expected to bring jobs, investments and revenue to the town. But the project never got past the site preparation phase, and that has raised questions in the community about the fate of the public’s investment.
“Recent developments regarding the Twisp Trail Project have inadvertently reinvigorated a debate within our community about the legacy of the decades-old Twisp Business Park public/private partnership,” Ing-Moody and Smith said in their statement.
“Some citizens have recently expressed disappointment about the vacation of Wagner Street and the subsequent lack of development, questioning whether all laws have been followed and contractual obligation met,” Ing-Moody and Smith said.
They also reviewed records and the court decision related to the vacation of Wagner Street, and consulted the town’s attorney, Scott DeTro, and determined that the town’s action in vacating Wagner Street is final. DeTro was the town’s attorney when the court case was filed in 1995 and defended the council’s actions.
The town’s examination of the contractual obligations and conclusion that they had been met didn’t satisfy Mike Price, a former Twisp mayor and one of the citizens whose questions prompted the town’s review.
Price said the conclusions arrived at by Ing-Moody and Smith “appear to be confusing the settlement of a limited part of the financing with an abandonment of the public interest in the entire project,” Price said.
The review of the business park history doesn’t address current issues related to loss of the riverfront access, including “the recent shoreline trails fiasco … or the public funds lost when the Lloyds recently reversed their commitments on the shoreline trail,” Price said.
In addition to the trail planning and design work that was based on the promised easement, the value of the donated easement was included as part of the town’s matching funds for a $200,000 state recreation grant awarded to Twisp last year to acquire property and construct the trail.
Bob Lloyd, who is a member of the Twisp Town Council, told the council last year that the family, doing business as Lloyd Holdco LLC, had decided to rescind the easement donation due to “security and privacy” concerns. Lloyd said Lloyd Holdco LLC represents four siblings — himself, Don Maples, Mike Maples and Lorna Lott.
The easement donation was formalized in a notarized Agreement for Conditional Conveyance of Non-Motorized Recreational Trail, dated April 29, 2014.
Ing-Moody and Smith said Monday (May 2) that while they feel questions about the status of the public/private partnership have been answered, they expect to revive discussions at future Town Council meetings about the possible donation of a trail easement on the Lloyd property.
“Our intent is to open up a conversation with the Lloyds about future development of that property,” Smith said. “What are the potentials that still exist for that trail to be there? We would like to reconvene those discussions about the agreement previously made.”
After Ing-Moody and Smith presented their conclusions from their review of the business park history to the council last week, Lloyd — speaking for the family business — said, “We are encouraged with the way the economy is going now and look forward to a relationship with the city and moving this [development] forward.”
This week Lloyd said development plans are “just in the discussion phase with the family” and there are no formal plans or a timeline for development.
In their statement, Ing-Moody and Smith said they “remain optimistic that a successful public/private partnership will result if and when the property owners are prepared to proceed with development.”
Proponents of the trail development have said that state and local laws that protect public and recreational access to shorelines — including the state Shoreline Management Act and Twisp’s Shoreline Master Program — will need to be met before any development of the property can occur.
The town’s recreational trail, as currently planned, would begin at the Twisp Park and run south along the Methow River on donated easements and rights-of-way. It would continue on town sidewalks and streets to the bridge over the Methow River. Plans had called for it to cross the bridge and head north for about one-third of a mile along the river on the Lloyd property, but the trail will now end at the bridge.
When first proposed in 1993, Lloyd Development planned an industrial park with up to 175 new jobs, as much as $5 million in private investments, increased tax revenues and a strengthened economic base for Twisp. To finance site development on the property, Twisp obtained more than $1 million in state loans.
About $384,000 of the debt was repaid by Twisp, and the rest by Lloyd Development, according to town officials.
Lloyd said the town’s shortage of legal water rights, which was resolved last year, and a weak economy played roles in the fact that the park was never developed.
Zoning on the property has changed since the park was first proposed and now is primarily commercial/residential, rather than industrial.