The debates surrounding Carmel’s April 13 municipal election have stirred up the dust in an ongoing fight over the city-owned Flanders Mansion, a circa-1924 building on the National Historic Registry that’s located in the city’s Mission Trails Park.
The building, which is said to be falling apart to the tune of about $750,000 in needed repairs, has been targeted by just-reelected third-term mayor Sue McCloud as a solution for raising money for capital improvements in the city [Weekly, Feb. 26-Mar. 3]. McCloud says selling the mansion could provide funds to upgrade the city’s ancient fire station, and says that when the city purchased the mansion in the 1970s “the intent [was] to sell the home to finance the purchase of the Mission Trails Park.”
City Councilmember Dick Ely, who challenged McCloud in Tuesday’s election, says the mayor has ignored and blocked debate on alternatives for the structure, including a lease option.
“Sue made this cavalier remark about the city intending to sell it,” Ely says. “I spoke to Mike Brown and Olof Dahlstrand, who were on the city council at that time and they say [it wasn’t true]. But that’s trivial; to me the bigger issue is that she has created her own scenario of facts to support an argument.”
Melanie Billig, president of the Flanders Foundation, writes in a letter to the Weekly: “Mayor McCloud stated that Carmel had always intended to sell the Flanders Mansion…This is simply untrue. The records at City Hall, the local History Department of our Carmel library, the Carmel Preservation Foundation, and others, do not support her statements.”
Billig has reams of news articles, as well as published letters and other correspondence, to document this claim.
“There wasn’t ever any intent to sell it,” she says. “There was a proposal and 500 people protested it and it was so obvious that people in the city didn’t want to sell it that it was tabled.
“While it may be true that individual council members or city staff may have suggested a sale, no formal city actions ever took place. When the idea of a possible sale was suggested, it was overwhelmingly opposed by the public and Carmel’s City Council.”
McCloud quotes the same articles that Billig does, as proof that the idea of selling Flanders has been bounced about for decades. She says that the city clerk, mayor, and city attorney at the time of the purchase intended to sell the home.
“It obviously hasn’t been sold,” she says. “The key point is that I have been saying this since 1996 or 1998, and no one has raised any comment about it. What I was trying to do is set the context that the idea of selling Flanders is not new—it has been discussed before. I have never said that the city council had [made] a decision to sell it… I’m not saying it was a decision of the council or the government to buy it in order to sell it, not at all. I’m simply saying since it was purchased in 1972 there has been mention of selling it in order to finance the actual purchase at the time.”