Nearly four years after the deal to develop the Civic Center was launched, the proposed project finally died Wednesday night when a divided Westminster City Council voted to stop all work on a controversial plan advanced by developer Steve Sheldon.
The vote was three to two in favor of killing the project with Councilmembers Kimberly Ho, Carlos Manzo and Tai Do in favor and Mayor Tri Ta and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen opposed.
What was proposed is for the city to sell a portion of the Civic Center to pay for a new city hall and other improvements and permit Sheldon Development LLC to construct condominiums in the center. The developer was selected in July 2017 for an exclusive negotiating agreement, but the ENA has been extended three times.
Ho, who had once supported the project, led the charge Wednesday night. Citing a variety of issues including the city’s potentially precarious financial situation, she said, “We have more questions than answers.”
She cited projections from city staff that the city’s reserves would be wiped out by 2025 if a 1-cent sales tax measure was not approved by voters in 2022. “We’re facing massive layoffs,” she said. “It seems very clear that it’s not in the best interests of the city to go ahead with this plan.”
Measure SS, a city sales tax approved by voters in 2016 with a six-year limit, will expire on Dec. 31, 2022. An earlier effort to put another sales tax item on the ballot for 2020 was defeated by the council. Even if the topic was revived and passed by voters in 2022, the city would lose millions because the tax revenue would not begin flowing until April 2023.
Manzo supported Ho’s motion, calling the idea of a new city hall “a want, not a need.” Nguyen pushed back, suggesting there might be some legal liability to stopping work on the Civic Center project.
Noting that Sheldon Development has reportedly spent upwards of $500,000 so far on the project, Nguyen said, “If I had spent that $500,000 and had the council unilaterally end the project, I’d be very upset.”
He proposed as a substitute motion that the city attorney and city manager meet with the developer to seek to arrive at an agreement. Ta seconded the motion, but it was defeated on a 3-2 vote.