Lynch wants to build homes on Cookson site
by Rick DeClue · News · September 21, 2012

After receiving two bids by Sep. 14, the West Branch City Council leaned toward one development proposal for the Cookson property.
Lynch Excavating, Inc. of West Branch bid $5,000 to demolish the existing structure and redevelop the site as single family homes or apartments. Lynch has operated for more than 25 years and employs 12 residents of the West Branch community. Larry Lynch and his family are long-time residents and community supporters.

Blue Sky Developers, Inc. offered the second bid after a 90-day exclusive period to review the site earlier this year. They determined that it was not feasible to redevelop the existing structure into apartments. Their $1 proposal also calls for demolition of the current building in order to build single family homes for sale or rent.

Both offers require negotiation of access via an extension from Second Street.

Lynch proposes the development be compatible with surrounding residences, businesses, and historic Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Blue Sky offered to build homes with a similar design and footprint as surrounding properties, citing in particular 118 West Orange Street. Blue Sky noted that the Orange Street property, which they described as the “meth house” and “drug bust house,” is simply a house that has been mistreated, but is representative of West Branch residential architecture.

On two major points, the proposals differ considerably.

Lynch proposes to be responsible for demolition of the existing improvements. Blue Sky asks the city to be responsible for demolition of the current building and removal of all parking areas, sidewalks, trees or other current development on the parcel.

Lynch proposes to pay all of its closing costs, plus $2,500 in closing costs for the city. It may pay additional city costs, if agreed by both parties. The Blue Sky proposal does not mention closing costs.

Council member Mark Worrell said that he likes the Lynch proposal and requested a decision as quickly as possible. Council member Colton Miller and Mayor Don Kessler agreed.

Worrell said it appeared to be a reasonable use for the property, was well-timed and would put the property back on the city’s tax rolls.

Larry Lynch said he plans to start in late fall or early winter. He said that he would take full responsibility for the property as soon as a deal was concluded, including liability and upkeep.

City Administrator Matt Muckler said that this was only a discussion item for this meeting. The next step would be to bring the proposal to council for action. City Attorney Kevin Olson said this would require a formal purchase agreement.

The council members and the mayor agreed to provide Muckler with any further comments in the next week, so that the issue could be brought back for a decision.

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