Downtown Louisiana lots purchased after council debates sales method
Doug and Lynn Dempsey want to turn this vacant space at Fourth and Georgia streets into a parking lot.
The city of Louisiana has sold three vacant downtown lots to two different parties but not after a difference in opinion between city council members on how they should be purchased.
The lots were sold last week for $10 apiece to Tim Carter and Doug and Lynn Dempsey after months of negotiations between them and the city.
Carter purchased two vacant lots on the 300 block of Georgia Street that used to be the site of the now-demolished Conboy and Rexall buildings.
Carter owns the building next door and wants to improve it for personal reasons and with a commitment to improve the crumbling downtown area.
The Dempseys have the same commitment with the purchase of the old caboose lot at the corner of Fourth and Georgia streets.
The Dempseys will keep it open for a parking lot but are not sure if it will be public, private or both, Doug Dempsey said last week.
The couple owns the building next door to the lot and have future plans to improve it. They said last week they are not prepared to reveal what they are going to do with the building formerly owned by Haines and Marilyn Moss.
The city council had originally negotiated selling the lots to Carter and the Dempseys after they approached the city about purchasing them. The city was willing to sell the lots because they were considered liabilities, according to City Administrator Bob Jenne.
At the Monday, July 8 city council meeting, the board voted 5-2 against selling the lots to the Dempseys and Carter outright, with Councilman Monroe absent.
Council members Larry White and Jim Wood voted for it, but Sal Pollice, Kathy Smith, Chuck Hoffman, Russell Stephens and Bart Niedner voted against it.
The decision came after Councilman Bart Niedner said the lots should be offered to the general public.
Niedner said constituents told him they might want to bid on the lots. He also said the Missouri Municipal League advised him the purchases should be handled with bids or appraisals to keep in line with the Missouri Constitution, which prohibits the use of public resources for private gain.
Both Carter and the Dempseys expressed frustration with the process changing on them at the time.
The council then voted 7-0 to advertise a request for proposals for the lots and to hold a special meeting to review them on Tuesday, July 16.
When the board met that evening with Elliott absent again, the members learned from Jenne that no one had submitted the a request for the lots, including Carter and the Dempseys.
However, Mayor Tom Wallace immediately entertained a motion to go ahead and sell the properties to Carter and the Dempseys as originally proposed. Wood made the motion and White seconded it.
Niedner protested that the process was being circumvented and voted against the sales with Smith and Hoffman joining him.
Wood, White, Stephens and Pollice voted for the motion and the sales were on again. Pollice was absent from the council chambers and voted on speaker phone.
The Dempseys and Carter were not at the meeting, but then purchased the lots by the end of the week, according to Jenne.