Council seeks dream tenant for
Published: January 11, 2013
IF IT can find someone with a lot of
cash and a desire to renovate — but not own — a beautiful but
deteriorating 90-year-old house on the edge of a public park,
the city won’t sell Flanders Mansion, according to a unanimous
vote by the Carmel City Council late Tuesday. But if a viable
lease isn’t in the works by the end of April, the city will take
steps to put the historic home on the market.
According to the motion mostly crafted by city councilman Ken
Talmage, the lessee would also have to restore the mansion
according to historic standards in a timely manner and then
maintain it in that condition until the conclusion of a lease
with a long, but unspecified, term. The tenant would pay market
rent but receive some sort of offset for improvements. A 2009
study estimated renovation costs at nearly $1.2 million.
Furthermore, the person would pay for maintenance, upkeep and
other expenses; defend the city in any subsequent legal fights
over Flanders and carry liability insurance; and agree to follow
numerous mitigation measures designed to offset the
environmental impacts of using the house as a private residence
rather than having it and its grounds available to the public.
The mansion’s private grounds would be .83 acres and include a
.07-acre conservation easement.
The motion came at the conclusion of an hours-long hearing in
which council members first voted to find the extensive
environmental impact report on the potential lease or sale
legally adequate. The study, prepared by Denise Duffy &
Associates, evaluated the possible sale or lease of Flanders on
a variety of different parcel sizes, in addition to the
1.252-acre lot that would have been sold under a scenario
decisively approved in November 2009.
Although the primary purpose of the project is “to divest
the city of the Flanders Mansion property, which is in need of
significant short-term and longterm repair,” the EIR concluded a
lease would be the “environmentally superior alternative” over
selling the house, since a lease would keep the building and
grounds in the city’s control.
Secondary objectives include ensuring the mansion is preserved
while being put to productive use in a way that doesn’t disrupt
the neighborhood, native plant garden and surrounding park
— all of which a lease would presumably accomplish.
At the meeting, planning consultant Brian Roseth told the
council that many of the comments received on the latest EIR
were similar to those recorded and addressed in the 2005 and
2009 studies — both of which were partially overturned by the
courts — and he read through several letters received in the few
days leading up to Tuesday’s hearing, addressing the issues he
LA Paterson, writer of several of the letters, observed that a
precedent could be set if Flanders is sold, but Roseth said the
council has the discretion to act according to the best
interests of the city, regardless.
Another vocal Flanders proponent, Skip Lloyd, sent a lengthy
letter arguing that the city’s general plan has conflicting
policies that could stand in the way of a sale. Roseth said
those, too, would be up to the council to decide.
Mayor Jason Burnett said he was impressed with Duffy’s final
EIR and thanked the public for providing input, too.
“The comments we received — and we have received many — have
been fully considered,” he said. “This has received a huge
amount of scrutiny, so members of the public are helping us.”
Won’t sue over lease
Melanie Billig, head of the foundation that has twice sued the
city over the planned sale of the mansion, said her group
supported a lease option.
Restaurateur and former mayoral candidate Rich Pepe suggested
asking voters whether they want to sell or lease the mansion,
and Les Albiol, who in the past has proposed a
resident-curatorship in which he would fix up the mansion at his
own expense in exchange for a life estate, said he canceled an
out-of-town meeting to attend the hearing on Flanders.
“I would propose no new fences, no new roads, no new parking
lots and a historically appropriate restoration,” he said,
adding that he would open the house and grounds to the public on
a limited basis.
“This would be a terrific use of Flanders as a city asset,”
At the meeting, council members also voted that the mansion
should only be used as a single-family residence. They also made
a determination that eventually selling it would not violate the
city’s general plan. Billig and other Flanders preservation
activists have argued a sale would violate the plan, but the
council, similar to the conclusions drawn by past city councils,
disagreed and decided a sale would not violate city laws.
Confident the EIR is adequate and that its dozens of mitigation
measures, which govern everything from protecting dusky-footed
woodrats, to installing exterior lighting, should be adopted,
council members moved on to discuss parcel size and concluded
the .83-acre version would be best for either selling or leasing
While a consultant’s economic analysis concluded leasing the
mansion would be virtually impossible, Talmage proposed the city
try to find a lessee before pursuing a sale.
“I don’t accept that on the face,” Talmage said of the study’s
results, and councilwoman Victoria Beach observed that such
economic analyses rely on comparative properties, but with
Flanders, there aren’t any.
“To apply the tool of the comp to a property that is quite
literally incomparable is by definition impossible,” she said.
Ultimately, council members refined a list of criteria required
of any potential lessee and authorized city administrator Jason
Stilwell to begin actively marketing the mansion.