Carmel in Negotiations for Flanders Mansion Property Deal
May 2, 2012
The city of Carmel appears to wasting no time in positioning itself to sell the Flanders Mansion as soon as the dust settles from a Court of Appeal ruling.
In a closed session Monday night, Carmel City Council was in property negotiations with developer Rick Stemple regarding the Flanders Property, according to the meeting agenda.
"Technically, the property is not for sale until the [court-ordered] process has been gone through, so I don’t know what they think they’re doing," says Melanie Billig, president of the Flanders Foundation, a group that formed expressly to keep the historic Tudor-revival home intact and under public ownership.
The home was built in 1924 and acquired by the city in 1973, but maintenance has been spotty since then; today, the mansion is locked and not open to the public, but dog walkers, joggers and bird watchers regularly travel the perimeter of the mansion, which is located in the middle of the 35-acre Mission Trails Nature Park.
Flanders Foundation sued over the city's intended sale of the mansion, arguing they didn't follow the California Environmental Quality Act by inadequately considering alternatives to selling.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley agreed with the Foundation. The city appealed, and the Sixth District Court of Appeal in January overturned portions of Kingsley's ruling.
City Council was quick to act on the court decision, and March 3 hired Denise Duffy and Associates for up to $20,500 to update the environmental impact report for selling Flanders Mansion.
Even with an updated EIR, council could still opt to back down on the sale and support ongoing maintenance, or contract with a nonprofit, to keep the property open as a public space.
But they've at least begun negotiating with Stemple, who in 1999 made a high-profile purchase of the Camphora Apartment complex in Soledad, originally built as seasonal farmworker housing.
Stemple could not be reached for comment. Mayor Jason Burnett and City Administrator Jason Stillwell declined to comment on the negotiations because they occurred in closed session.
Property negotiations don't necessarily mean council's jockeying for a sale, Stillwell says: "If anyone was to approach us and say they wanted to buy it, we’d be obligated to bring it to the city council for their discussion."
Attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley, who represents Flanders Foundation, says a public vote would be required before the city could proceed. "If they want to consider a full sale, they’d have to go ahead and put it on the ballot," she says. "I’m sure the city realizes it needs to comply with the court order."