A new Main Street ... well almost
Staff photo by Carol Keefer
Center of dispute the Verde Café property will remain just like it looked a year ago.
Steve Kyllingstad, who owns the restaurant and a structure next door (Personal Touch Hair Design and Fashions and Artisans Guild Gallery), said that beautification improvements will not go in along his property, a 250-foot stretch running from Hollamon Street to the former Chicago Title Company property.
"The town was unable to come to any agreement with Mr. Kyllingstad," confirmed Town Manager Bill Lee, who said they have been negotiating for about two years.
Kyllingstad maintains that his relationship with the town started out in a positive manner when town officials encouraged Main Street merchants to form an alliance. He said it quickly turned sour when he and a handful of others felt that the town was not hearing their concerns about issues important to small-town business owners such as front-of-business parking, drainage, sidewalks and lighting.
According to Kyllingstad, the alliance presented a downtown plan that included multi-colored river rock-type meandering sidewalk, enhanced street lighting, 70 parking spaces, removal of the pipe wall in front of Parks and Recreation building and a center turning lane.
Lee confirmed the loss of about 11 Main Street parking spots, but did say that they are attempting to add additional parking for merchants and customers as quickly as they can. He also said that ADOT's plans do include three lanes down Main Street in spite of rumors to the contrary.
According to Kyllingstad, the town swooped in to buy a lot next to the café along Hollamon Street as a negotiation tool. Kyllingstad, who said he had been eyeing the property, claims the town's interest in the parcel actually drove the price up. In the end there was no compromise.
Lee suggests a little different take on the matter.
"On Aug. 6, the Town Council directed staff to purchase the property at 64 W. Hollamon Street. The town was to use this property in an exchange for property in front of Mr. Kyllingstad's business. If the deal had gone through, Mr. Killingstad would have lost some parking in front. I think he would have ended up with six spots in front of the café and five or six or more in front of the other businesses. We simply were not able to come to terms with Mr. Kyllingstad," Lee said.
The property will now be paved and used for lost Main Street parking, according to Lee.
Kyllingstad said he's holding out until he gets what he wants. "No plank sidewalk, straight-in parking, seven parking spots in front of the restaurant, six in front of my other rental building, and two 24-foot accesses off Main Street for swing room by delivery trucks, more street lighting and not just pedestrian lighting," he said.
Kyllingstad maintains the town flubbed attempts to condemn his property and cannot touch him now for two years. Town Attorney Julie Kriegh doesn't agree.
"We could have proceeded [with condemnation] but this council chose not to," she explained.
Lee said that 13 owners sold easement rights to the town for fair market value. And it wasn't necessarily easy, according to Kriegh, indicating some had involved very long negotiations.
Kyllingstad, when asked if he was hoping the town would buy his property, would not commit one way or the other but did suggest that his property would make an ideal location for the new Marshal's Office. He hinted a ballpark value of somewhere between $700,000 to $1 million.
John Biondi, who owns Allstate Insurance, is another unhappy business owner unwilling to let the Arizona Department of Transportation use his property. Instead, they are using ADOT right of way for the necessary improvements in front of Biondi's building (The Stables). Biondi is still unhappy, saying he was lied to and is threatening to sue over the loss of ingress and egress.
"For two years, Bill had told me that there would not be anything between my parking lot and the street," he said.
Biondi maintains that Lee promised him that the only improvement in front of his building at this point in time would be a drive-over sidewalk and a ground-level flowerbed on the ADOT right of way. His front parking is very shallow, and he maintains that drivers will have difficulty backing in and out if ADOT proceeds with its current design.
He said that Lee continued to misinform him until an ADOT official told him that there would be a two-foot raised planter, a metal light pole, trees, curbing and two limiting accesses on going in on the ADOT right of way.
Lee disputes Biondi's accusatory point of view.
"I think we have different recollections of the events," he said. "I shared information with all the owners up and down Main Street as it became available. Mr. Biondi was not active during the planning process and has made it clear he was not interested in the project and working with the town.
"I know that Mr. Biondi is not happy about the design, particularly about the location of a light and planter that will be located on ADOT right of way. He will be provided two driveways into his property. Early on, the plan was to take the sidewalk and meander it up next to his building which would have eliminated Mr. Biondi's current concerns, but he was not interested in that design," Lee explained.
Biondi says he is getting ready to sue if ADOT continues with its current plan. He said he has already contacted the American Disabilities people complaining about the restricted access he feels the town and ADOT are trying to force upon him and the hardship it will cause his older customers and the disabled. In spite of the insurance agent's unhappiness, Biondi says there is a simple solution.
"Move the planter and metal light pole and trees to the edge of the property line that I share with the town, and leave my access, across the front of the property, like it is now," he suggested.
ADOT officials were contacted for comment on both parcels.
Doug Nintzel, ADOT spokesman replied, "Because it's a local enhancement project, the town has been in the lead in efforts to work out these property issues. We manage the construction but are limited on what we can do to resolve these various concerns. However, we think ADOT and the town have exhausted all possible avenues with the Verde Café owner. The town is still working on Mr. Biondi's issues. We don't want the project to result in a less-than-desirable appearance and hopefully something can still be worked out between the town and the businesses."
Lee said he was not sure if it was too late or not but indicated a willingness to continue talking.
"I would be happy to discuss the project with them if they wished to set up a meeting," he offered.
The Main Street Beautification Project is part of a state grant for around $900,000, tied in with the Arizona 260 Bypass, and runs from the Circle K area to an office complex (the old motel).
"We're disappointed that we weren't able to negotiate agreements for the rights of way as originally designed but rather than go to condemnations, council chose to respect personal property rights," Mayor Mitch Dickinson remarked.