City officials have nothing to hide in their dealings with would-be Philips farm developer Elvin Sapp, City Council members said Thursday.
The Sierra Club and some residents have accused the council of trying to conceal details of its business dealings with Sapp, which include the possibility of the city buying part of the Philips farm for a park. Council members contacted Thursday said those accusations are unfounded.
“I certainly don’t feel like anything’s being done behind closed doors,” Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said Thursday. “Everything is in public hearings. The information is available for anyone who wants it.”
Sensitive to the public reaction, the council plans to televise a work session on the matter that is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday. Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins said the public session will also be held in council chambers so that many people can attend.
“There was never any intent to try and pull a fast one,” Watkins said.
Mayor Darwin Hindman said the council would never try to exclude the public from its business. He said there have been many public hearings on the Philips property and another is scheduled before the March 15 final vote.
Hindman said that he’s been more than willing to talk to residents concerned about the Philips property and that he sees merit in the arguments of both the developer and opponents.
The council faced criticism after its meeting Monday night, when Sapp attorney Dan Simon presented a series of changes to the Philips farm development plans. While city administrators received the proposed memorandum of understanding on Friday, it was presented to neither the council nor the public until Monday night. The new proposal prompted the council to table its planned vote on whether to annex and zone the Philips land.
Fifth Ward Councilman John John, who is Sapp’s real estate agent and has abstained from public discussion of the matter, said the changes presented Monday night were intended to clear up public questions about the project and to outline what Sapp’s responsibilities would be if his zoning request is approved.
The memo says Sapp is willing to pay up to half the cost of most road improvements that might become necessary in the area and also to help make the 40-acre Bristol Lake safe for recreation.