A push was made Tuesday night by some McMinnville officials to declare the Blue Building as surplus property so it could be sold. The measure has not passed the full board.
“I make a motion we declare the Blue Building surplus, as well as the two lots downtown, so they can be sold,” said Building and Grounds Committee member Billy Wood. “This has gone on long enough. We need to do something with those properties.”
The measure passed committee 2-1, with Wood and Alderman Junior Medley voting in favor of it. Alderman Rick Barnes voted against it.
When questioned after the meeting about his vote, Barnes added. “We pass ordinances all the time telling people how high their grass can be and how they must maintain their property. Yet, we have a building that we are allowing to deteriorate. It’s a double standard.”
Barnes says he fears the Blue Building will go the way of the Park Theatre.
“If we do this, the Blue Building will be a carbon copy of the Park Theatre,” he said. “They will discover they won’t be able to do anything with the property, just like the Park Theatre Group did. It will eventually be back in the city’s hands. We should fix it, rather than passing it on to someone else to deal with.”
The decision to declare the Blue Building surplus property came after a passionate plea from Dr. Neil Schultz and Rachel Killebrew, who were representing McMinnville Heritage Preservation Inc., Heritage Alliance, and Main Street McMinnville — the three organizations interested in the property.
“We have $50,000 we would like to use on the property,” said Schultz of McMinnville Heritage Preservation. “However, we are still at square one with the Blue Building, just like we were four years ago. We still have no legal right to do anything when it comes to the property.”
The preservation group has been trying to work with the city for four years to lease the property or help find a buyer that will renovate the building, rather than remove it.
Killebrew says she has been in contact with at least two companies that are interested in the property, but neither are intrigued with government.
“They don’t want the renovation to take 10 years,” she said. “They want to come in, do it, and be done. Both businesses have done this kind of restoration before. They buy abandoned property and restore it. They just don’t want the hassle of dealing with the city.”
The organizations have three renovation requirements. One, being a complete restoration of the building according to historic district guidelines. Second and third, the building be used by a business that would add value to downtown and would bring people into town.
The two interested businesses had stipulations of their own, Killebrew said.
“They want to buy it. They will lease, but they would rather buy. They asked if the city would sell it to our nonprofit organization for $1. Or, if the city could set a price for the property and sell it to them, they would do it.”
Being declared surplus means the properties would be appraised for value. Then, officials must decide a selling price. There are three ways the property can be sold — sealed bids with a minimum, at auction with reserve, or at auction without reserve.
While the committee’s decision will be sent before the full board for its consideration, the measure does not mean one of the three nonprofit organizations will be the eventual owner of the property.
“We cannot, by law, sell it to a specific organization,” said city administrator David Rutherford. “We must adhere to the law. By law, it must be sold. Any business, individual or organization can bid on the properties.”
No date has been set for the board to consider the Building and Grounds Committee’s recommendation.