Rocklin museum, chapel still in danger of sale

Library saved as approved government use; other properties are in doubt
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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The city of Rocklin lost its first round in the effort to save the Rocklin History Museum and St. Mary’s Chapel from a state-mandated sale.

However, the library on Granite Drive will be allowed to be retained for ownership by the city of Rocklin, according to the State Department of Finance.
The department is overseeing the dissolution of statewide redevelopment agencies, including Rocklin’s former RDA, to sell its assets to help fill California’s budget gap. At issue is the state’s loophole clause allowing cities to retain properties that fit the definition of “government use.”
Rocklin’s attempt to prove the museum on Rocklin Road and the chapel on Front Street were government buildings was denied by the state Nov 28. Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst is not worried and hopes to appeal the decision.
“I think it will be successful – I think this is just a checks and balance,” Horst told the Rocklin Oversight Board at its Monday meeting.
Harold Dean Palmer, director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance, indicated Rocklin still has a chance to save the properties.
“While the transfer can’t happen at this point in time, there is another opportunity for it to happen once the subsequent steps are completed,” Palmer said.
The city is required to hire an outside certified public accountant to audit the former Rocklin RDA’s accounts, and present that report and a property management plan to the state. Then it’s up to state officials to deny, approve or suggest changes to the plan.
“Our first property management plan will say, ‘Transfer to the city,’” Horst said. “Worst-case scenario, they at least have to honor the agreements we currently have, which is a 50-year deal (for use by) the Historical Society. St. Mary’s is a shorter duration. There is a contract for about 15 or 16 years.”
One barrier may be the state’s overall aim to get the money as soon as possible.
“The goal is to expeditiously wind down the affairs of the former redevelopment agencies based on the law,” Palmer said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to go out and hire a real estate broker to sell the property.”
Horst indicated he will fight to save the properties.
“I don’t want to even get them appraised,” he said. “I don’t want to do any of that type of thing unless they come down here with some enforcement and force us to do it.”
Skip Gebel, president of the Historical Society, told the board it’s all or nothing for the society.
“Our worst-case scenario – we lose control of St. Mary’s and the history museum, and in essence the Rocklin Historical Society dies,” he said. “There is no recourse. If we can’t buy it and the state says sell it, we’re done.”
No one knows what the state would take for the properties, but with limited funds for the city and the society, it’s a non-starter.
“I just don’t want to keep spending our dollars to support their aims,” Horst said.
Carol Ellis, a longtime Rocklin resident and member of the Rocklin Heritage Committee, said city officials were “arrogant” and botched the paperwork that led to the denial.
“I don’t know who wrote it, but I thought a kindergartner wrote it,” Ellis told the Oversight Board. “If I were the state, I would have denied them, too.”
Ellis said the city should have proved St. Mary’s Chapel fits the “governmental use” definition because it’s part of Heritage Park on Front Street.
Horst defends his staff.
“There was a lot of documentation that went with this, including the original purchase agreements, timelines and council minutes,” he said. “All kinds of stuff.”
Palmer said the time for a park distinction for St. Mary’s is over.
“They probably should have done it already,” Palmer said, “Everything is on hold right now. It doesn’t mean they can’t do it. They just can’t do it right now.”
Horst suggested citizens start a petition to help persuade the state.
“If there are 58,000 signatures saying, ‘We think it is a governmental purpose,’ That doesn’t hurt either,” he said.
If Rocklin does what it’s planning to do on time, the State Department of Finance expects to have a final answer for the city by April 15, 2013.
The city had hoped to get all three properties initially approved to test the process to try to save the Big Gun Quarry. Now Mayor Brett Storey indicated that may now be more in doubt.
“We thought we had a pretty good chance at the quarry,” he said. “It certainly wouldn’t have (been saved) this way. We know that now.”