Sherman’s referendum on the board

Shown is the Shermans Amsusement Park property. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

CAROGA — The sale of the former Sherman’s Amusement Park property to the Caroga Arts Collective will go to referendum for public vote on the tentative date of Aug. 20.

The town board at it’s regular meeting on Wednesday passed the resolution to enter into a property sale contract for the sale of Sherman’s to CAC at the cost of $50,000, which will go to referendum for the public to vote on.

Not all town councilmen were in favor of the resolution. John Glenn was the one vote against the resolution stating that he never saw the contract.

“I haven’t had the chance to review these documents,” Glenn said. “I don’t think I’m prepared to vote positively on this.”

However, councilmembers emphasized that selling the property to the CAC would be in the best interest of the town to avoid any lawsuits from it’s former owner George Abdella.

Abdella gifted the property to the town in 2014 under a donation agreement that stipulated that the town must maintain the property and not sell it. Since then, the town has received several proposals from third parties seeking to purchase the property. Abdella has agreed to the sale of the property to the CAC without threat of a lawsuit.

The town obtained a release and waiver from Abdella to sell the property to the CAC for $50,000 — the approximate cost the town has spent on the property since taking over ownership in 2014.

“I think it’s time ,” said Councilman Jeremy Manning. “We’ve had this discussion now for more than four years. I think this proposal for us is the least amount of risk to the town financially, legally, especially if it guarantees the donation agreement, which in my opinion was the worst decision the town’s ever made.”

Councilman James Long agreed with Manning stating that it is “urgent” the town get out from under the donation agreement that the previous administration accepted.

“This is a solution we think is in the best interest of the town,” Long said.

Many residents attending the meeting complained that there have not been enough meetings or public hearings on the CAC’s proposal, including the proposal from developer John Lawrence to purchase the property for $225,000 and turn it into a mixed-use development with a restaurant, retail stores and second-floor apartments, while also retaining some of the iconic features of Sherman’s.

Councilman Kent Kirch said there were two meetings held in May when everyone had the opportunity to make comments.

“This is not an easy decision for anybody and I think it’s something we’ve taken a lot of time to talk about,” Kirch said.

He said there are three reasons why he supports the sale of Sherman’s to the CAC.

The first reason is the sale would completely eliminate legal liabilities for the town.

Secondly, the town will be reimbursed for all the cost it’s had since it acquired the property.

Lastly, it would eliminate controversy, and gets the whole situation “off the town’s back,” Kirch said.

“It’s not fun for any of us to be in these discussions. We’ve had this thing for five years, it’s time to try something,” Kirch said. “I think we can talk all we want about what you’ve heard in these information sessions about the CAC and their plans, but they have been the most consistent, the provided the most input and the thing I like about it the most is most of the people involved with that group are local residents. I’m confident they’re going to do the right things with that property. I wouldn’t have the same level of comfort with a developer from outside the community.”