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City Council due to consider property purchase

Members of the Roswell City Council Legal Committee had some concerns about the possible purchase of residential property near the Spring River Zoo, but the matter was forwarded to the entire City Council. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Neeb says land near zoo could become events and educational center

The city’s possible purchase of a multi-family residential property near the Spring River Zoo is heading to the Roswell City Council following a 3-1 committee vote.

The Legal Committee decided Thursday to forward the decision about the $415,000 purchase agreement to the entire City Council for its consideration at a Feb. 11 meeting. The committee meeting discussion included some concerns about the condition of structures and the opposition of City Councilor George Peterson.

“Roswell is short on money, with COVID and all that mess,” said Peterson. “I don’t think now is the time for it. A couple of years ago, one of the — the No. 1 thing — the citizens of Roswell wanted was the roads fixed. I think we should use this money, if we have the money, to use it on the roads instead of purchasing property.”

Peterson added that he understood that the 1.24 acres at 1101 N. Atkinson Ave., just south of the pond area of Spring River Zoo, was a good location for zoo expansion.

Judy Stubbs, Barry Foster and Jason Perry voted to have the entire City Council consider the draft sale and purchase agreement.

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The land has been owned by Britt Bourque since 2007. She has done numerous renovations over the years to create four furnished short-term rental units known as Cozy Cowboy Cottages.

According to a September 2020 appraisal intended to help the city make its decisions, the property includes a main house with three rental units, a detached cottage with a rental unit and a building now used for storage that has had some renovations and also could serve as a living unit. There is also a carport and a rock wall building.

Parks Director Jim Burress approached Bourque about whether she would be willing to sell as he was overseeing the ongoing work to clean and improve the zoo pond area during 2020. As part of that process, the city removed an eight-foot fence that had separated Bourque’s property from the city land.

City Manager Joe Neeb said that the immediate plan would be for the city to keep the rental units as short-term housing for health care professionals or first responders who are needed in the area but sometimes have difficulty finding housing. Property management staff with the Community Development Division of the city would oversee the rental operations, Neeb said, with any rent money collected returned to the general fund.

Eventually the city will want to use the property to create an events and educational center for the Spring River Park and Zoo, Neeb said. Planning for that would be expected to begin next fiscal year.

The appraisal put the market value of the parcel at $300,000 and the “going-concern” value of property and its rental operations at $415,000.

Bourque said that three nurses are living in the units now. She said the structures look “dilapidated” from the outside but that they do well as rentals because they have the necessary utilities and renovations.

“I would be happy to work with city in any way to keep that rent going,” she said. “I would be willing to lease it back for a while to lessen the costs to the city.”

Foster expressed concerns about a rock wall that he said has separated from one of the buildings.

“Those repairs have to be planned for,” he said. He added that he wants the city to prepare cost estimates of needed repairs and maintenance for the City Council.

Neeb said that the rock wall is not in danger of failing, but he agreed that city staff will survey the property more in coming days and will provide estimated costs for the City Council meeting.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.