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Council approves Lakewood sale

This had generated a lot of discussion, but in the end it went through.

The Houston City Council on Wednesday approved the sale of the former Compaq Center to Lakewood Church for $7.5 million.

The vote was 13-to-2, with Councilmen Oliver Pennington and Stephen Costello opposed.

[…]

As they received more information about the proposed sale and weighed the $100 million shortfall the city faces in the coming fiscal year, several council members said they came to see the sale as a good idea.

“We are really in tough financial times,” Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said. “I don’t see where we have a lot of options.”

The sale had been endorsed by City Controller Ronald Green the day before Council voted. As I said before, what you have to consider is the fact that the city wasn’t going to be making any money off of this property for more than 20 years thanks to the lease that was signed in 2001, and the fact that cash was needed by the end of June to close a revenue gap in this year’s budget. Those factors made the circumstances of this sale unique, and when combined with the $11.8 million Lakewood had already paid, it makes sense. I can’t think of any other remotely palatable options for finding or cutting the same amount to help balance the budget.

Something else to keep in mind: If the city weren’t required to balance the budget – if there weren’t this artificial deadline of June 30 for having revenues match up with expenditures – this sale would likely not have happened. It’s only because the city needed cash now that it was considered. If the city were allowed to carry the balance forward into a new fiscal year – that’s another way of saying “run a deficit” – this might never have happened. I’m just saying.

One more thing:

Councilman C.O. Bradford sharply faulted Parker for how the sale was unveiled to the public, questioning why the previous payments from Lakewood and all the encumbrances were not more clearly explained initially. Parker gave Bradford a long stare during Wednesday’s council session Wednesday but did not address the criticism directly.

Boy, if only Council meetings had musical accompaniment. Bradford did vote for the sale, so make of that what you will. Swamplot has more.

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3 Comments

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    For whatever it may be worth, Bradford and his family have been occasional attendees at Lakewood (possibly more frequent than I know of). It’s not clear from the article, but it sounds as if it could be that Bradford is expressing his displeasure over the details being rolled in a way that generated negative feedback toward Council and/or Lakewood during the session from the week prior. I haven’t seen any of his comments from last week’s session to indicate which way Bradford was leaning then, so it’s an open question.

    It definitely stood out to me that there was a great deal of history about the initial Lakewood lease that wasn’t resonating with a lot of the criticism of the proposed sale last week. But that’s what I get for being a veteran of the Les Alexander vs Chuck Watson duels of the 1990s.

  2. […] City Council was able to complete the Lakewood Church sale, they were not able to vote on the other major real estate deal on their agenda this week, as […]

  3. […] this drags on much longer, they’ll wind up spending enough to have bought Lakewood Church. You’d think in an economy like this a city might have better things to do with its money, […]