By Keri Thornton
Tahlequah officials say delays on reaching a settlement over nuisance property downtown has forced them to move forward with condemnation proceedings.
Mayor Sue Catron said the city worked for quite some time trying to reach an agreement with Springwater Properties LLC over property south of Town Branch Creek.
The city sued Springwater Properties LLC and Springwater Fence LLC in 2018. Springwater Properties LLC, owned by Christy Springwater, put up the fence next to Norris Park in 2017, after purchasing the Town Branch Apartments on Water Street. Despite discussions among the city and property owners to reach a settlement, councilors voted to direct City Attorney Grant T. Lloyd to initiate the lawsuit.
Business owners have complained their properties are inaccessible, since a fence blocks access from Water Street and the city frequently closes Muskogee Avenue.
The Drip owner, Albert Soto, posted a photo of the fenced-in area on social media May 18 and asked city officials when the issue would be resolved.
"It restricts access, it's ugly, and it's in the middle of our beautiful town. When can we fix this," Soto said.
The City Council approved a resolution during a March 16 meeting that authorized the city to move forward with condemnation of lots of the original townsite of the city.
"We have been in negotiations with Springwater Properties LLC for some time and trying to lease or come to an agreement on exposition of that property," said Catron. "Our last attempt was to lease for $20,000 for 50 years and provide for some parking, but that was declined. Understanding that it would take about $20,000 in legal fees to go through the condemnation process, we contacted the Springwaters one last time and offered to purchase the property south of [Town Branch] Creek for $40,000."
Catron said Springwater's response was a counteroffer to sell it to the city for $60,000, and they needed to determine if they wanted to move forward.
"We made several attempts to negotiate with them. Even after the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Lloyd had difficulty trying to communicate with their attorney. We thought Mayor Catron had a deal worked out but it fell through about three months ago," said Ward 2 Councilor Dower Combs.