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March 13, 2019
Dear Caroga Citizens,
Many town residents have expressed a desire to learn the current status of the Sherman’s Property. To begin, we want to make clear that any decision regarding the future of Sherman’s will be put to a public vote. We believe this is the only way to ensure that all voters have a fair and equal chance to be represented in determining the future of the property.
The information provided below will explain the situation as it currently stands, identify one possible option that the Town Board is presently considering, and outline a path forward that will ultimately put the decision in the hands of you, the voter. The history of the acquisition and the events that occurred since the town acquired Sherman’s are summarized below.
December 2014 - Sherman’s conveyed to the Town of Caroga by Balboaa Land Development (George and Ruth Abdella). Donation Agreement between Town of Caroga and Balboaa Land Development was signed by George Abdella and Supervisor Ottuso.
February 2015 - Citizen Committee formed to review donation agreement and make recommendations to the Town Board.
March 2015 - Town Board officially adopts the Donation Agreement unchanged after reviewing the citizen committee recommended changes.
May 2015 - Due to filing of lawsuit by Caroga citizens, the Town Board rescinds its March resolution adopting Donation Agreement on the advice of outside counsel. George Abdella maintains the Donation Agreement to still be valid.
February 2016 - Sherman’s Advisory Committee was established to solicit proposals from developers, real estate agents, and anyone with interest in the purchase, lease or development of the Sherman’s property. The Committee included members of the Town Board, Planning Board, local businesses, and Fulton County development experts.
February 2016 - July 2017- Sherman’s Advisory Committee distributes formal request for proposals, meets with six commercial brokerage agencies, and officially receives two proposals: Caroga Arts Collective (CAC), and LPP Management LLC. The Committee provides extensive feedback to each group and holds public presentations for each proposal.
July 2017 - Sherman’s Advisory Committee unanimously recommends Caroga Arts Collective (CAC) as the most viable candidate for long-term use of the Sherman’s Property.
August 2018 - Letter of Intent was presented to Town Board whereby George Abdella indicates that if property is sold to CAC, Balboaa Land Development will consent to release the Town from any and all obligations under the Donation Agreement.
September 2018 - Public presentation by CAC regarding their plans for the Sherman’s Property.
October 2018 - Town Board received contract of sale from CAC attorney. Contract negotiations with CAC begin and are pending final resolution.
November 2018 - Town Board passes resolution combining Sherman’s parcels into one parcel.
Since the Town has owned Sherman’s, concerts have been held, a weekly farmer’s market has been hosted, and other groups have used the property for various events. While these are positive steps, we don’t believe that town ownership represents a viable long-term solution for the property. Simply put, we believe the cost of developing and maintaining the Sherman’s property is too much for the Town of Caroga and its taxpayers to bear. For this reason, we have been negotiating with the Caroga Arts Collective for a possible sale of the Sherman’s Property. They have proposed to use the site as a year-round arts and education center, performance space, conference center, potential future town hall space, and maintain the grounds for public use. We have received other proposals, but due to the high possibility of a costly lawsuit with Mr. Abdella, lack of detail, limited public benefit, as well as concerns about the lack of adequate wastewater infrastructure at Sherman’s that could ultimately cause the return of the property to the Town, we have decided to not pursue them at this time.
The Town Board and Town Attorney will continue negotiations with the CAC in an effort to achieve the best possible solution for the Town, with the greatest public benefit. If we reach an agreement, we will make the details public and host multiple public meetings where questions can be answered and input provided. After this, if the Town Board decides to move forward with the contract, any resolution accepting the contract would be made SUBJECT TO REFERENDUM, meaning that it would only pass if it enough voters said “yes”. If we do not reach an agreement with the CAC or if the voters say “no”, we will consider other options.
The Town Board has a responsibility to ensure that any decision regarding the future of the Sherman’s property makes both the most economic sense for the Town, while also doing the most public good, and this Board will remain committed to fulfilling that responsibility. We understand that the future of the Sherman’s property is an issue in which we have all become personally invested. For this reason, we believe that any decision should be made by the voters themselves, and not by the Town Board alone. Once an agreement is publicly released we welcome your ideas and strongly encourage you to participate in town meetings.
The Town of Caroga has owned Sherman’s for over four years. While there has been much public debate during this time, we believe it is time to start making some decisions. To that end, we are committed to conducting an open, productive, and inclusive process in which we may collectively determine the future of Sherman’s.
The Town of Caroga Town Board