The Charlottesville City Council has granted the Piedmont Family YMCA a one-year extension to begin construction of a fitness and aquatic center on the western side of McIntire Park.
On Jan. 15, 2008, the city entered into a 40-year ground lease with the Piedmont Family YMCA for land on which they would build a fitness and aquatic center.
“Paragraph 8 of the lease states that ‘if construction is not commenced within 60 months of the execution of this lease, this lease shall terminate unless an extension of time is requested,’” said Brian Daly, director of the city’s parks and recreation department.
However, the project has not been able to make that deadline because of a lawsuit filed against Charlottesville and Albemarle County by the Charlottesville Area Fitness Club Operators. The group consists of Gold’s Gym and ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center.
The suit argues the city and county both broke Virginia’s Public Procurement Act by not allowing for-profit companies to respond to a request for proposals to respond to the lease. The suit also argues that both localities’ donations to help pay for construction are illegal.
The Virginia Supreme Court heard the case in June and a ruling is expected in January.
The City Council voted 4-1 Monday night on a resolution to extend the lease.
Several members of the public pleaded with councilors to deny the extension.
“This process is so flawed that its integrity will be decided by the Virginia Supreme Court,” said Pat Napoleon, a city resident who has campaigned for years against the project being located in McIntire Park.
“This extension provides you with an opportunity to ensure that the very best use of McIntire Park can occur,” said city resident Jim Moore.
Moore said a lot has changed in five years and the city has demonstrated it can build its own facilities by opening the new Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center and the revamped Carver Recreation Center.
City resident Randy Page said he believed the Piedmont YMCA would go into debt in order to build the facility.
“Under the Freedom of Information Act, I requested financial documents used by the city to approve the McIntire project,” Page said. “There were no financial statements and no one seemed to remember seeing any.”
Councilor Dede Smith championed their arguments and said it appeared that the YMCA was in violation of the lease.
“The language in the lease no longer applies to the reality of the project in terms of where it is,” Smith said. “It’s not slated to be where this says, and there are several other points that no longer seem to be true.”
“If you actually look at the lease itself, the location provision contemplates a final determination based on the master planning process,” said deputy city attorney Allyson Manson-Davies.
The council adopted a master plan for the western half of McIntire Park in May 2008 that identified a specific location for the Y. The council subsequently approved a site plan and critical-slopes waiver for the facility.
Smith said the lease should have been amended to reflect the location because it is a legal document. According to the lease, the Y was originally to have been located where the softball fields are located.
“It’s really not a relevant issue on the question of whether the time to commence construction should be extended,” said City Attorney Craig Brown.
However, Smith pressed her opposition.
“I think it needs to be rewritten to accurately reflect the project in all of its language,” Smith said. “To extend it is to put us in a very awkward position.”
Smith also argued that according to her reading of the lease, the YMCA would not be able to enter into a mortgage in order to build the facility.
“We’re going to have to negotiate the security that we have to give for that loan with the bank but we’ll have to do it within the constraints of what we have in the ground lease,” said Kurt Krueger, chairman of the Piedmont Family YMCA.
“The questions you are raising may be interesting questions, but they are not subject to why we are here today,” said Mayor Satyendra Huja.
Krueger said the project will have to come back before the council with a financial plan before construction can begin.
“We have to get your extension and we have to get the Supreme Court ruling in order to pull those things together,” Krueger said.