K2 plan draws fire

More than a month after Dick Sontgerath’s Heritage Group, Inc. got an agreement to purchase the K2 site, Islander Tom Bangasser, who described himself as a commercial real estate businessman, criticized the group’s plan because it was for-profit.

He did so at a meeting he convened of the Economic Committee of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council (VMICC) last Thursday.

The VMICC Web site describes the committee as “inactive.”

Bangasser said that he was in favor of a “community” as opposed to a “consumer” approach.

The difference, he said, was that a community approach is for the common good whereas the consumer approach, he said earlier on Thursday, would be “a private venture that would create a mall.”

Bangasser said that a nonprofit approach would be financially do-able through such devices as block grants.

Truman O’Brien, one of the three partners, with Dick Sontgerath and Mike Kirkland, in Heritage, made the case that non-profit approaches have been tried and have failed. He cited his own involvement in trying a few years ago to save the old Vashon Elementary School and turn it into a community art center.

The failure, he said, was caused by lack of funding.

Realtor Emma Amiad chimed in when asked about her recent attempt to put together a nonprofit endeavor to buy K2, “Everyone wanted it, but no one had the money.”

And those who thought they had the money, an unidentified couple, found, said Amiad, that they did not, and they could not find others who would contribute.

O’Brien also disputed Bangasser’s “community-consumer” idea by describing the Heritage effort as an attempt to combine the financial leverage of a for-profit enterprise while keeping in mind the best interests of the community.

He declared that Heritage has been conducting tours of the site daily, even on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as a way of educating the community and receiving input.

Real estate businessman Armen Yousoufian wondered aloud what the purpose of the meeting was.

“They’re going steady,” he said, describing the relationship between Heritage and K2, “and they have some time to decide whether they are going to get married.”

Bangasser said near the end of the meeting, “Maybe Emma didn’t look at all the options.”

He claimed also to have somehow “missed” the change from Amiad’s non-profit attempt to the Heritage for-profit project, and he said, “If I had known about the change, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

O’Brien responded, “Isn’t it a moot point?” He seemed to be suggesting that since Heritage had its deal under way, a change of direction was unlikely.

And although much of the case Bangasser was building to support his opinion that a change back to nonprofit would be good, he denied earlier in the day that he was interested in purchasing K2.

The relationship between Heri-tage and K2 involves, O’Brien indicated, a set period of time — he would not state the length — for Heritage to get commitments from non-profit as well as for-profit groups to move in, at which time each would commit to purchase of a part of the K2 site, which includes 21 separate interior spaces ranging from 25,000 to 1,000 square feet.

Yousoufian said that it would not be unusual in such a situation to have the kind of agreement O’Brien described, what Yousoufian called “a gentleman’s agreement” with detailed conditions for a period of time that would include an understanding that the seller would not enter into other agreements during the time.

At the end of the meeting, Bangasser asked whether there was any reason to discuss the matter further, and Yousoufian said, “There won’t be anything new to discuss.”

“Are there options for a non-profit to do this? All they have to do is turn this over to a non-profit,” Bangasser replied.

O’Brien responded, “That’s a great idea. Tom would have to buy the option from Heritage.”

To which Bangasser said, “You might just give it away for free.”