York City Council to consider $5M Dentsply line item for budget Tuesday

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Two motions on Dentsply on the York City Council's legislative agenda could see approval Tuesday night.

The first motion would create a line item in the 2022 budget for $5 million toward the purchase of the 17.3-acre property, with $4 million of the line item put toward the purchase price. The rest would be a buffer for other costs, such as the still unknown carrying costs and the retention of independent counsel Rebecca Shanaman of CGA Law.

According to acting business administrator Kim Robertson, that motion wouldn't commit the city to spending the full $5 million, but it is needed in order to actually spend funding on the sale and other associated costs.

"It earmarks a line in the budget, pulling additional proceeds from the sale of the [wastewater] plant," Robertson said Friday. "Without having a line in our budget, we can't spend any money."

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The second motion is to approve a modified letter of intent, which has been viewed, signed and edited by Dentsply. A special meeting held by the council Wednesday saw extensive discussion from the council and the public.

"A letter of intent is just that. We intend to buy it, pending review of information," York City official Blanda Nace said Friday. While he is the chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, he is acting in his capacity as the city's chief opportunity development officer on the potential purchase of Dentsply.

The edits made by Dentsply, Nace said, included removing two parcels from the original LOI and tweaking language, such as changing "purchaser" to "buyer."

Without that letter of intent, Nace said, the city can't obtain certain information about the property that would allow it to make an informed decision about the purchase.

"Quite frankly, I can't figure it out until we sign the LOI and gather the information. I'm flying blind, and the whole city is unable to make an informed decision without the letter of intent signed," Nace said.

As part of the signing of the LOI, $40,000 will go into an escrow agreement managed by CGA, 1% of the total $4 million purchase price. If a subsequent purchase and sales agreement were signed, the rest of the $4 million would be paid; if the city decided not to purchase the property and sent a letter of termination, it would get back the $40,000.

Neither the LOI nor the motion creating a line item commit the city to spending the full $5 million, Nace reiterated. It's only if the city signs a purchase and sales agreement that it will be committed.

Ongoing process: There was a four-month gap between the original letter of intent and the edits sent back by Dentsply. Nace said that's because the company had to review other offers, though he's unsure of who might have made other offers to the company.

If the LOI is approved, the city will then enter a period of doing due diligence on the property and developing a purchase and sales agreement. That would take place over 45 days, during which Dentsply must provide the city all the data it needs to make a decision, such as environmental reports and carrying costs.

Nace said he's getting experts prepared to review that data, including an environmental consultant and engineers CS Davidson Inc.

"We'll have all our professionals looking at that data and summarizing it and have the ability to make an informed decision," Nace said.

The special meeting and subsequent committee meeting discussing the potential purchase are viewable on the White Rose Community TV YouTube channel at York City Council Special Meeting + Committee Meeting 9/28/2022 - YouTube.

When asked for comment on the plans, Dentsply Sirona gave its seal of approval.

"The plans to redesign the property are positive for the residents in York," Dentsply Sirona communications manager Elizabeth Earnst said Friday. "We look forward to continuing the conversation with the City on the property and moving toward an agreement of sale.   We see the College Avenue property as a positive redevelopment opportunity for the community."

'Not rushed': While there has been criticism from some that the city is moving too quickly on the potential purchase, Nace said he's been involved in the process since last year.

"The LOI was not rushed back in May. A couple of months went by, we're not rushing now," Nace said. "August is when they got the revisions back, and now it's October. We've had a month and a half to review their revisions, so I don't think there's any rush here."

During last week's special meeting, Nace was asked by an audience member about the lack of community input into the project thus far and a lack of a clear vision for what would be done with the property.

"In regard to community input now, it sounds foolish but we don't want to waste our efforts on something we may not control," Nace said. That sort of community input is being sought for the comprehensive plan, and there have been general ideas floated for the property, such as affordable housing.

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Council president Sandie Walker did not respond to a request for comment. Mayor Michael Helfrich said he had no comment on the matter.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the York City Council Chambers, 101 S. George St., York. It is available for streaming on the City of York's Facebook page at City of York (facebook.com) and on the White Rose Community TV YouTube page at White Rose Community TV - YouTube.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.