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Council no closer to resolution on Riverwood sale; a tale of two meetings

Related Apartment Preservation (RAP) is the entity that is trying to purchase The Riverwood Housing Development, a federally subsidized housing development that must remain as such until 2036 due to the Deed of Trust. Related began the process of contacting the Town and seeking their approval of the project as far back as July.  Initially, Related contacted the Town for its approval because of the mode of financing they are trying to use – state issued tax exempt bonds.  To use this form of financing, the purchasers must have “the blessing” of the Town Council.  According to Related's representative, Richard Hurlbert, this is the way their company prefers to do business; this way the community is kept in the loop and the purchaser is aware of any concerns that the community has with the property.  However, perhaps there has been a misunderstanding on the Town Council concerning the necessity of their blessing.
 


In a bold move last Wednesday by Colonial Beach Town Council three resolutions regarding Riverwood Apartments in Colonial Beach were put in a state of suspended animation.
After the meeting was called to order; Mayor Rummage made a motion to approve the first Resolution 89-08. When no one came forward to second the motion, the Mayor called a ten minute recess. Then Rummage walked into the back room.
While some members of Council sat thumbing through papers, others sat back in their chairs waiting. After roughly two minutes Rummage returned to his chair. A few more moments of awkward silence followed, then Vice Mayor Trish King asked the Mayor if they could come out of recess.
Rummage asked, “What is the purpose of coming back into session at this point?”
To which King responded, “So we can move on with the agenda for this evening.”
Mayor Rummage said, “Well, we tried 89-08 and we didn’t get it before us, shall we try 93-08? Do I hear a motion?”
Vice Mayor Trish King responded, “I’ll make a motion for 93-08.”
 Rummage called for a second. A second was heard. Council member Sparky Ridgely asked for clarification on the motion asking, “Is this to accept it?” One member said, “No this is to put it on the table.”
To which Rummage replied, “No no this is for acceptance.” The original second was withdrawn.
Mayor Rummage announced, “93-08 is not before us therefore it can not be discussed.”
There was discussion as to whether the resolutions had failed. Town Attorney Erard stated that no action had been taken. Mayor Rummage said, “It’s a continuing resolution… It can be brought up at anytime… I would guess that it would be the parliamentary recommendation.”
That took care of two of the motions regarding Riverwood.
Then King began to make a motion on the last resolution but was cut off in mid sentence by the Mayor, clarifying that it was a motion to approve. When no second was heard Mayor Rummage adjourned the meeting.
That took care of all three motions regarding Riverwood.
The meeting was a continuation of a public hearing held over from a rainy Thursday December 10th. At the beginning of that meeting, tokens of gratitude where handed out to citizens giving much of the public attendees reason to leave early.
The hearing on Riverwood heard no opposition nor support from residents but a heated discussion ensued between members of council and Mayor Rummage leaving Richard Hurlbert Jr. attorney for Related Apartment Preservation LLC standing at the podium for over an hour.
For several months Related Apartment Preservation LLC has been under contract to purchase Riverwood apartment from the current owners Riverwood Limited Partnership and have been negotiating with the Town Council.
The prospective buyer (Related Apartment Preservation LLC) is seeking to acquire a $4,200,000.00 bond from Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the purpose of purchasing and improving Riverwood Apartments. In order to be approved for the Bond the Colonial Beach Town Council must adopt a resolution Res. #88-08 declaring the need for a Bond to be issued and their approval.
Although the Bond would not require repayment, the Council members have many concerns about the three resolutions pertaining to Riverwood.
At the core of the matter is resolution #93-08 which comprises an agreement between the town and the current owners of Riverwood apartments to provide greater access to the property by Colonial Beach Police and provisions for the current owners to pay a salary of $40,000.00 for an officer to patrol the premises.
The agreement is for a period of 3 years and would be carried over to the Prospective buyers. Members of the council are finding it difficult make a decision that would only temporarily handle the situation and result in a new problem for the Council in three years.
 During these discussions some have mistaken the scope of Beach Police powers over the 83-unit complex. Mayor Rummage had expressed in the December 10th meeting his concerns that if the Resolution did not pass, Riverwood would become a “Federal Island”. Some members seemed worried that C.B. Police would not be able to enforce the law.  “The Resolution would only make access easier in certain situations but is not needed for Beach police to carry out their lawful duties.” states Councilman Ridgely.
The third and last resolution involved is #89-08 which sets out an agreement that ensures that certain improvements will be conducted by the new owners as well as various actions that would call for a “zero tolerance” policy to be enforced with respect to criminal conduct and unlawful behavior by tenants.
According to Vice Mayor Trish King, many of the improvements outlined by the prospective buyer are already required by law from the HUD manual.    
The big argument during the December 10th meeting was, “These agreements have “no teeth” with no legal recourse.”
 Hurlbert, the attorney for the prospective buyers, argues that these Resolutions are binding contracts and the Town has legal recourse through the laws concerning Breach of Contract.
Councilman Sparky Ridgely stated he doesn’t want to enter into a contract on the basis that they would have to seek legal action through the court that would take time and tax payers’ money.
Ridgely’s concerns echo that of other members of council by saying, “they were assured certain security improvements to the tune of $18,000.00 per unit by the prospective buyers only to be told later that those improvements where contingent on the buildings being “sound”, that they didn’t have to make any major improvements.”
 After the meeting Mayor Rummage had this to say, “We have a number of people here that just absolutely, I think, it's not that they don’t want to do anything for Riverwood, I think they’re very upset that we have a disproportionate amount of subsidized housing in this town. But they’re here and that’s a problem and we should address that. I’ve got a number of people who have contacted me who live out there who are really looking forward to having a change. And we could have made a difference with these resolutions. But now we’ll have to use a different approach.” Rummage is particularly concerned about the elderly residents of Riverwood.
When asked if the failure of these resolutions could lead to displacement of any residents, he assured The Journal that the residents have no reason to worry about that. Rummage is confident that the sale of Riverwood will go through. He reassured that if the sale did not go through and the current owners abandoned the property, HUD would take over but Rummage does not see any evidence of that happening.
When asked if the resolutions were still on the table or if they were null and void, Mayor Rummage responded, “They could be reconsidered. Right now they are null and void. See, in order to get any one of them before the council there has to be a motion and a second then that brings it before us. Then we debate it, discuss it, then we either defeat it or pass it.”
By this response and the Mayor's insistence during the meeting for motions “to pass” the resolutions, it brings up the question of whether or not there was a procedural misunderstanding between the Mayor and members of council.

Linda Farneth

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