Whittle the Wood carvings are displayed in the open space commonly referred to as Craig City Park. The city has leased property from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 for more than 60 years, but negotiations on a new lease stalled in 2009. The city and VFW recently issued letters stating both parties would like to return to the negotiating table.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Whittle the Wood carvings are displayed in the open space commonly referred to as Craig City Park. The city has leased property from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 for more than 60 years, but negotiations on a new lease stalled in 2009. The city and VFW recently issued letters stating both parties would like to return to the negotiating table.

City of Craig, VFW reopen park talks

The City of Craig and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 recently exchanged letters, opening up lines of communication regarding the 2.88-acre Craig City Park.

Talks regarding the park were prompted by Craig City Council member Jennifer Riley, who voiced during the Dec. 13 city council meeting that a resolution needs to be hammered out between the two parties.

“The issue with the VFW is still unresolved,” Riley said during the meeting. “We need to know where they are because we still have things to plan for next year.”

Riley recommended the city re-issue, in writing, its offer to buy the park for the appraised value of $25,500, and request the VFW to respond before the end of the year.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree sent the city’s letter Dec. 14.

“As you know, the appraisal put the present market value of the property, as deed restricted, at $25,500,” the letter states. “The city is required by ordinance to obtain an appraisal when purchasing property.

“However, ordinances do not require that the city council adhere to the value established in the appraisal.”

VFW quartermaster Larry Neu believes that statement implies the city is open to negotiating the purchase price, but he said Thursday a sale to the city is not an option.

That decision was reached Nov. 21 during the VFW’s most recent member meeting, which was heavily attended, Neu said.

“I’ve never seen so many members at one of our meetings,” Neu said. “There were members there that I have never seen at a meeting before, and the decision was unanimous — our park is not for sale to the city.”

Neu said the decision to end purchase negotiations is due to the appraisal, which was conducted by Arnie Butler & Company of Grand Junction, and set the market value of the park at $255,000, but issued a 90-percent reduction because of deed restrictions that state the property must remain an open space.

However, according to the VFW’s Dec. 28 response letter, signed by new post commander David Walters, the veteran’s organization is interested in discussing a new lease agreement with the city.

“The Veterans Park is now available for lease to whoever is willing to accept terms agreeable to the membership of the VFW,” the response letter states. “The commercial property (occupied by the Marcia Car) at the corner of Washington and Victory Way will now be leased as a separate piece.”

Neu said additional terms of a lease agreement would be discussed privately with the city.

The VFW has given the city council until Jan. 15 to respond to its letter.

“If there is no response, the VFW will pursue a third party option,” the response letter states.

Riley said she believes the park will be a discussion item when the city council reconvenes Jan. 10, 2012.

“The primary intention of the city has been to maintain it as a park for the benefit of the public,” Riley said. “I don’t think there is anything off the table in terms of what the city is willing to talk or not talk about, and I certainly don’t think any doors have been closed on our part.”

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