It's all about the Process
- RICE FIELD & DMPS BOARD PARTIAL TIMELINE
This timeline provides a glimpse into the early events and process leading up to the Des Moines Public School sale of Rice Field. In studying the timeline, three distinct segments appear: the setup, the bait, and the switch.
The Setup (1999-2003)
These first few years centered, initially, on convincing the residents of Beaverdale that Rice Elementary School would not be torn down and, later, that the site would be preserved as a recreational field. High-ranking DMPS officials made statements indicating the Rice site would not be sold. Residents were told that if the one-cent sales tax passed then the site would remain accessible to the public. This promise was officially sealed in print in the DMPS Schools First document.
The Bait (2003-2005)
Residents were informed that consultant and design services had been recruited to facilitate a study for the revitalization of the core Beaverdale business district. This study on revitalization involved very few residents because the focus was to be on the businesses in the core district. Residents trusted the leadership to focus their revitalization efforts on the existing business district and trusted there would be no encroachment on residential areas.
The Switch (2005-2007)
Residents begin to discover that revitalization of the core Beaverdale Business district was no longer the primary focus. Rice Field had become the target for development.”
Partial Timeline of Rice Field Sale
· 1998. Dr. Eric Witherspoon joins the DMPS as the new superintendent.
· 1998. Residents attend meetings with DMPS officials voicing need to keep Rice School open.
· 1999, June. Byron Rice Public Elementary School is closed.
· 1999, Oct.-Nov. Supt. Witherspoon, Judith Cunningham, and other DMPS officials promise taxpayers that if the one-cent sales tax passes, their tax dollars will ensure that the Rice School building will remain in public use.
· 1999, Nov. The Local Options sales tax passes.
· 2000, June 6. DMPS Board votes to destroy Rice School.
· 2000, Aug 7. The City Council adopts the 2020 Community Character Plan showing the Rice School site is located within a “residential protection corridor.”
· 2000, Oct. Rice School is demolished.
· 2000, Oct. Questioned about the future of Rice Field, Supt. Witherspoon states: “Our projections are that within 12 to 20 years, we will need it for a grade school.”
· 2000, Oct. 25. Linda Lane, Chief Operations Officer for the Des Moines Public Schools, said the District does not intend to sell what is one of the last large, build-able lots in the area and is studying uses for the property.
· 2001, Nov. The DMPS Schools-First 10-year Community School Facilities Action Plan states, “The former Rice Elementary School property will be maintained as a park and practice field for neighborhood groups.”
2002, Autumn. Joe Jongewaard is member of task force created by Beaverdale Neighborhood Association (BNA) to study vacant commercial space in core Beaverdale shopping area, specifically the building vacated by Walgreens.
· 2002, Dec. 3. Duane Van Hemert, District Executive Director of Facilities, states “I’m not willing to part with any extra land until after we complete” renovations paid for with the one-percent local-option sales tax. Those projects won’t be finished until 2011.”
· 2002, June 18. School and City officials sign a 28-E land swap agreement for Rice Field to replace public parkland lost at Prospect Park for a school parking lot with a termination date of 2022. “The DMPS, in anticipation of having the Prospect property available for use for the next 20 years, agreed to provide the City of Des Moines with the Rice site.” DM officials express concern about the loss of parkland in the area.
· 2002, Fall. Beaverale Neighborhood Association (BNA) members state concerns about vacant commercial space in the core Beaverdale Business district.
· 2003. Tom Boesen creates the BBC (Beaverdale Business Coalition). He becomes the agent and President. Joe Jongewaard becomes a BBC member. This BBC replaces the long-standing Beaverdale Business Association.
· 2003. The BBC engages RDG, a professional planning and design service, to study revitalization of the core Beaverdale commercial district (Beaver Ave from Fagan to Beavercrest).
· 2003. The Essman Research verifies 75% of residents support leaving Rice Field as an enhanced park.
· 2003, Sept. 9. Connie Boesen, sister-in-law to Tom Boesen (president of the BBC), is elected to the DMPS School Board.
· 2004, June 15. The Iowa Department of Economic Development selects Beaverdale as Iowa’s first ‘Urban Neighborhood Commercial District pilot project with pilot project will be managed through IDED & National trust for Historic Preservation Mainstreet Center.
Joe Jongewaard will be a member of Main Street Initiative Board.
· 2004, July. The RDG Study is published. A central theme throughout is that Beaverdale residents “place a high value on its parks and open spaces.” The study also states, “Few residents voiced support for construction of retail uses on the site (Rice Field).” The first choice of the participants was to leave Rice Field as a park.
· 2005, June. The DMPS with Connie Boesen as President holds community meetings explaining recommendations, adjustments, merger of schools, and school closings contained in the Schools-First Mid Program. The closing of five neighborhood schools is the major topic. There is no discussion on the sale of Rice Field.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On June 7, 2005, the DMPS Board voted to close five elementary schools without the legally required public notification, with
Connie Boesen, DMPS Board Chair leading that action before a packed meeting room. This entire action extending over two years and ending in an unusual Court of Appeals action became known as the ‘Memorial Day Bombshell’ because notes sent home with children in those five schools on the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday were not discovered by most parents until Memorial Day. Calls went out to activists throughout Des Moines. Public uproar was immediate, unprecedented, and widespread. That vote by the School Board violated Iowa’s Barker Rules requiring extensive planning with parents, teachers, and citizens prior to closing any school. As required law, parents from each of the five schools formed a coalition and sued the Des Moines School Board
· 2005, June 28. The DMPS Schools-First Mid-Program document does NOT contain any reference to the sale of school property.
· 2005, July 12. DMPS Board approves Schools-First Mid Program Review. Connie Boesen, Board President, sets the agenda and presides over the meeting. The July 12, 2005, Board minutes do not state that Rice Field is to be sold. In fact, no mention of the Board’s approval of the sale of any school property is made. However, the sale of Rice Field then appears in the revised Schools-First Mid-Program Review document dated the same day of this meeting on July 12, 2005.
· 2006, May 16. A conceptual plan, developed by the BBC along with DMPS, City, and BNA members, is proposed at the DMPS Board meeting for the sale of Rice Field. Mixed-use development plans created by BBC members will serve as basis for the conceptual plan. The successful developer will submit plans for a PUD, Planned Urban Development, to the city for approval once same developer completes the purchase transaction with the school district. The original Schools-First document stated Rice Field will be maintained as a park. Citizens have not been informed otherwise.
(The DMPS Board had decided to sell Rice Field, but did not inform the public that the land was for sale.)
· 2006, July. Supt. Eric Witherspoon departs from the DMPS. Nancy Sebring becomes new superintendent.
· 2006, July 14. DMPS Board approves a Request for Proposals (RFP) to be distributed to “qualified” developers for the sale and redevelopment of the former Rice School site. The RFP was prepared in part by the BBC. The RFP requires that all prospective developers show proof of financial support for their development. The proposals will be evaluated by a committee comprised of members from the DMPS, City, BNA, BBC, & BMSI (Beaverdale Main Street Initiative pilot plan in which Joe Jongewaard participates).
The Request for Proposals for mixed-use development eliminates any other use, such as parkland, for Rice Field. However, the Field’s remaining as parkland is the number one choice in development scenarios of the RDG Study and the number one choice from another reliable survey.
Note: The BBC initiated the revitalization process under President Tom Boesen’s direction. The proposals would be evaluated based on how well they related to the BBC revitalization plan. BBC members would evaluate the proposals and select the winning development team. Tom Boesen continues to be President of the BBC. (A proposal will be submitted by a development team consisting of Tom Boesen and family members. The selected winning proposal will be the proposal from the development team consisting of Tom Boesen. )
· 2006, July 27. E-mail communications between Rice Site Committee members indicate they know the City is working on a “delicate TIF issue” for Beaverdale which Chris Coleman has made “one of his top priorities.
· 2006, Aug. 31. The DMPS board receives development proposals for Rice Field from Ewing Developers ($750,000), Wells ($680,000), Rice Partners ($650,000), Sherman Associates ($595,000), Regency ($480,000), and Nelson ($432,000).
· 2006, Sept 1. The six proposals are distributed to the Rice Site Committee.
· 2006, Autumn. Joe Jongewaard becomes member to Rice Site Review committee, replacing Emily Lawson.
· 2006, Autumn. Main Street Initiative, Joe Jongewaard board member, forms a subcommittee, the Reason for Integration Subcommittee’: “What you may not know is that the scope of the MSI project has been expanded dramatically in recent months to include not just a cosmetic long-range plan for guiding development of the entire neighborhood through the next 10 to 20 years. Lots of changes are in store, and the redevelopment of Rice School site is just the beginning.”
· 2006, Sept 5, Noon. The Rice Site Committee meets at Terrus Real Estate without any public notice and no minutes are taken. The Rice Site Committee eliminates proposals from Ewing Developers, Sherman, and Wells.
· 2006, Sept 5, 2:37 PM. Press release on the three proposals selected for Rice site redevelopment went out. The three firms selected were Nelson, Rice Partners (Tom Boesen, Ed Boesen & John C. Kline, etc.), and Regency.
· 2006, Sept 5, Evening. DMPS Board selects its members, Duane Van Hemert and Dick Murphy, for the Rice Site Committee. (Note: The school board selects their members for the Rice Site Committee after the committee had already met and eliminated three proposals.
· 2006, Sept 18. The three remaining plans are presented in a meeting at Hoover High School. Interested parties were directed to view plans online on DMPS website.
· 2006, Sept. 21. The Rice Site Committee meets without any prior public notice. No minutes are taken. Citizen objections are ignored.
· 2006, Sept. 23. Citizens complete a petition titled, “Save the Green, No to Development of Rice Field.” The petition is considered sufficient enough after approximately 1,000 signatures are collected.
· 2006, Oct. 3. The Rice Site Review Committee and Rice Partners present to the DMPS board. No other developers are present. The session is packed with citizens who present their ‘Save the Green’ petition signatures to the school board. The public is vocal against the development of Rice Field. Residents complain to the DMPS Board that closed meetings dealing with the sale of Rice Field were being held.
The Rice Site Review Committee recommends the proposal submitted by Rice Partners for $650,000.00 with the conditions that the developer utilizes only currently available incentives and assume all costs associated with development (No TIF).
· 2006, Oct 12. E-mail from Van Hemert to the Rice Site Committee states the committee (which had met illegally) must reaffirm recommendations in a public setting. Dick Murphy is asked to act as the temporary chair until the selection of an official chairperson can be made.
· 2006, Oct 13. A letter signed by Ed Boesen to DMPS Board states that Rice Partners are delighted to be the preferred developer for the Rice site. He also states that TIF is critical to the redevelopment of the Rice site. No pro-forma was included.
· 2006, Oct. 17. The Rice Site Committee conducts an open meeting at Cassidy School. Public input is ignored as the development team had already been selected.
At-large Des Moines City Council member CHRIS COLEMAN,
"..if I lived next door to this property, like many of the people here, I probably wouldn't like it either. I totally understand why they don't like the fact that development would happen. They have the public, other tax payers paying for a private park next to them and that's a very nice advantage...*"
*Des Moines City Council member CHRIS COLEMAN's statement at the October 17, 2006 School Board meeting, prior to the the DMPS board public hearing on October 31, 2006 on the proposed sale of Rice Field. COLEMAN is referring to Rice Field; location of the public school since 1909 until Byron Rice School was demolished and then designated as green space/recreational by the DMPS. (It was discovered after-the-fact that the contract between the Boesen/Rice Partners, LLC developers and DMPS had already been signed the day before the public hearing on the sale of Rice Field.)
· 2006, Oct 17. The DMPS Board approves the sale of the Rice site to Rice Partners ( Tom Boesen, John C. Kline [now convicted felon for bank fraud], etc) with conditions that the developer utilizes only currently available incentives and assumes all costs associated with development.
· 2006, Oct. 29. Rich Clark, speaking for Rice Development Partners says, “Regardless of whether we have TIF, we are committed to completing a project that the neighborhood can be proud of.”
· 2006, Oct 30. The DMPS and Rice Partners sign an agreement for the sale and acquisition of the Rice Field property. The accepted proposal is the third highest offer on the land. Contractual language includes, “property sold “as is.” and “The District shall not pay any costs associated with zoning and/or development of the Property.” The following language has been removed from the contract, “the developer, utilize only the incentives currently available, such as tax abatement on residential properties.” Note: This contract was signed one day before the public hearing on the sale of the land took place
· 2006, Oct 31. DMPS Public hearing is held the day after the board signs a contract with Rice Development Partners, LLC. (Tom Boesen, Ed Boesen, John C. Kline). The public again opposes the sale of the land. Citizens ask Board Chair Marc Ward if the sale of Rice Field to Rice Development Partners is ‘a done deal.’ Ward replies that it is not. However, the contract had already been signed the day before.
· 2006, Nov. The Beaverdale Sidewalk (Fall edition): “What you may not know is that the scope of the (revitalization) project has been expanded dramatically in recent months to include not just a cosmetic redo of downtown Beaverdale’s streetscape...” Note: This statement verified that the area residents and general public was not informed that the revitalization plan had been expanded to include Rice Field.
· 2007, Jan. 9. The DMPS School Board again approves the sale of Rice Field to Rice Partners for $650,000. The Rice Partners’ plan now drops to the 4th highest bid. Board minutes prove that this meeting was not a “do over” meeting as required to correct previous errors. The Board states interest in Save The Green’s bid but say they feel obligated to sell the land to the same development team.
The public was never given the opportunity at this meeting, or at the previous “botched” meeting, to purchase the land as green space.
· 2007, Oct. 2. The DMPS School Board approves Rice Partners’ request to contribute $130,000 towards costs associated with correcting the storm sewer problem on Rice Field despite contractual language which includes, “property sold “as is.” and “The District shall not pay any costs associated with zoning and/or development of the Property.”
The $130,000 rebate to the Boesen team is to be taken out of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) fund.