Opinion: Transparency lacking in Salisbury development plans


Re: “Progress Resists Opposition: Council deflects accusations, approves parking lot sale for planned development” – June 27

Editor Of The Independent:

In the June 27 edition of the Salisbury Independent, the front page article by Liz Holland concerned the redevelopment of three parking lots in Downtown Salisbury.

The root causes of this controversy are the confusing statements made by the developer, by the city of Salisbury and a complete lack of transparency in the whole process.  

Way back in 2002, the City Council requested proposals to redevelop parking Lots 1 and 11, which are the parking lots located between the Downtown Plaza and the county library. Thirteen years later, in 2015, the city entered into a contract to sell these lots to Devreco LLC. Nothing seemed to have transpired with this deal for several years.

In November 2021, the city declared parking Lot 15 surplus. This is the parking lot on the corner of Camden Street and West Market Street. One offer was received for this lot, and it was from the same developer.

Fast forward to June 20, 2023. After being mostly quiet for eight years, the city suddenly calls a special meeting – with only a week’s notice – to quickly approve Resolution 3263, and a related Land Disposition Agreement, to convey Lots 1, 11 and 15 to a new company called Salisbury Town Center Apartments LLC.

This was not a regularly scheduled meeting and so hastily called that it wasn’t even held in the City Council chambers, but in a small conference room which could hold less than half the people who showed up. 

Resolution 3263 itself specifically states: “the Developers have agreed to amend the Original LDA (Land Disposition Agreement), in its entirety.” In effect, what was presented to the City Council for approval that evening was – by the very words in this resolution – an entirely new agreement.

Concerned individuals showed up to this hurriedly called special meeting because this was their first opportunity to voice their concerns about what the city was doing with very valuable land in the heart of Downtown Salisbury. 

At this special meeting, the attorney for the developer, Michael Sullivan, stated that on Oct. 31, 2018, a deed was prepared and an owner’s policy issued for the sale of Lots 1 and 11. He also stated that ownership of these two lots was deeded.

He went on to say that in January 2023, he realized that the city had conveyed all of Lot 1 and 11 and the developer needed to give back to the city part of Lot 1. This was to enable the city to borrow bond money to build a parking garage for this project.

Evidently, the city planned to pay for a multi-million-dollar parking garage on land currently owned by the developer, but later realized it couldn’t sell municipal bonds to pay for the garage if the city didn’t own the land the garage sat on.

According to the LDA approved by the city on June 20, the developer will design the parking garage and the developer, along with their tenants, will have first rights to the use of the city-owned parking garage.

Several things are baffling about all of this.

Lots 1 and 11 are currently titled in the name of the city of Salisbury. If in fact both of these lots were deeded to the developer in 2018, way wasn’t that deed recorded?

How much consideration was paid at that time and where did that money go?

If Lot 1 was already owned by the developer, why did the city approve a contract to pay $3,468,944 to build Unity Square and start construction on land the city no longer owned?

If Lots 1 and 11 were already legally owned by the developer, why didn’t the elected city officials simply tell us that up front?

Where do things stand now? It looks like the developer will pay $275,000 for these three parking lots and the city will build a $10-plus million parking garage with the developer being the primary beneficiary.

The original agreement was signed in 2015. Since then, the city has enacted several tax incentives, so the developer will not have to pay any city property taxes on the improvements for five years and reduced taxes for the next 15 years, at a cost to the city of millions of dollars in lost revenue. About $1 million in water and sewer connection fees will also be waived. 

One of the most devastating impacts could be a shortage of parking in Downtown Salisbury created by the removal of 374 existing parking spaces in these three lots and the recent sales of several other city-owned parking lots.

Inadequate or inconvenient parking will affect everyone visiting or working downtown: the courts, county offices, health department, library, restaurants and various other businesses.

As promoters of this project have said, this development will be transformative. Unfortunately, not all transformations are positive.

Michael C. Weisner


Weisner is a longtime Salisbury real estate broker. – Editor.

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