SPRINGDALE — Manuel Nava thought his land purchase was a done deal. The city council said no.
The council filed a vote on Tuesday to sell Nava land at 5576 N. Oak St. in what was once Bethel Heights.
Nava, acting as agent for his company, Guadelupe Masonry Homes, has offered to pay $480,000 for 14 acres, which is immediately west of the Chantel Subdivision and immediately east of the railroad tracks at the ‘Arkansas and Missouri. The sale was final pending council approval, city attorney Ernest Cate said.
The land was appraised at $525,000, said Wyman Morgan, the city’s director of administration and finance.
Colton Miller and Devin Cluff came to Tuesday’s meeting and told the board that the two men had made offers on the same land on Monday. The offer was $440,000, Morgan said.
The board voted 5-3 to table the issue and continue the discussion when it meets Monday as a committee of the whole.
Board member Amelia Williams said she voted to file approval for the sale to Nava to allow time to process Miller and Cluff’s offer.
“Anyway, this filing goes, I don’t like it,” Mayor Doug Sprouse said at Tuesday’s meeting. “But the city has a responsibility to do what’s best for ratepayers.”
Morgan said Thursday the city has a fiduciary responsibility to get the most out of transactions for residents.
The circumstances of this sale were unusual because the city was not actively seeking to sell the property, Morgan said. The two buyers approached the city asking to buy the land, he said.
City staff had not contacted a real estate agent or advertised the land for sale, Morgan said. The council had not authorized the staff to sell the land.
In fact, the city didn’t ask for an appraisal until Miller and Cluff last summer approached the city to buy it, Morgan said.
Council member Mike Overton, also a real estate agent, said the council has final approval on any land deal.
Overton said he voted to file for approval because he was not convinced the city should dispose of any property. The city must take into account its future needs and the evolution of the real estate market.
“And when we decide to sell it, we have to spread the word and tell everyone it’s for sale,” he said.
Morgan noted that the city hasn’t sold many properties. But more typical actions would see the city run an announcement asking for sealed bids before a deadline or auction — in person or online, he said.
State law makes no provision that cities must have a bidding process for the sale of property, Cate said.
Miller and Cluff on June 7 offered $369,000 for the property, Morgan said. City staff refused.
The men called Morgan in the fall, saying they wanted to submit another offer. They never did, Morgan said.
Miller said in a letter to Morgan on Tuesday that he and Cluff “got caught up in their business and time got away from us.”
Nava offered $300,000 on January 17. Morgan rejected this offer because it was lower than the $369,000 offer.
Nava issued another offer that city staff deemed acceptable to present to council. The board, at its January 31 meeting as a committee of the whole, gave initial approval for the sale.
Neither Miller nor Cluff responded to an email Thursday afternoon.
Nava expressed his disappointment in a phone call Thursday, but said he knew he had to wait for a decision.
Nava said he wanted the Oak Street property as an investment and might consider developing a housing estate. Miller and Cluff want to build homes for their families to give their children the same rural lifestyle they grew up with, Miller said in the letter to Morgan.
The land is currently zoned partly agricultural and partly commercial. Any development would likely require rezoning.
On December 14, the board approved another sale to Nava of 1.4 acres at 219 E. Apple Blossom Ave. and Lincoln Drive for $150,000. The property was valued at $165,000, according to city documents.
Nava said his teams unearthed a house on the property that is directly north of the old Bethel Heights City Hall. He originally planned to build an office for his business, but he is also considering other options.
The latest land sale by the city was the sale of lots created between the street and homes when widening Huntsville Avenue, Morgan said. The city sold the land at auction.