Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Questions about sale of Boy Scouts building

A lawyer for a buyer interested in the Boy Scouts building raises questions about the city's proposed sale of the property.

Questions about sale of Boy Scouts building


The lawyer for a philanthropist who submitted a competing bid for the Boy Scouts’ Logan Square headquarters has sent a letter to the Nutter administration questioning whether the city can consider the $1.5 million offer, given that it has not completed a final sale agreement with the scouting group.

William Ewing, a lawyer for real-estate investor and philanthropist Mel Heifetz, asked City Solicitor Shelley Smith whether the city’s agreement to sell the building to the Scouts for $500,000 was final. The sale agreement also calls for the Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council to forgive about $960,000 in legal fees it is owed by the city. The fees stem from a federal lawsuit that the city lost after it moved to evict the Scouts over the group’s policy of excluding gay people.

“Does the Law Department take the position that the "agreement" was legally binding on the City when the City received Mr. Heifetz’s offer,” Ewing asked in the letter.

Smith said the agreement is binding, in part because discussions about it have involved federal judge Ronald Buckwalter, who is overseeing the case.

“The court surely expects the parties to proceed in good faith in honoring the agreement and the process needed to get to a final conclusion,” Smith said. “It is not at all unusual, in the hundreds of cases the city settles, for the complete documentation of an agreement to follow the oral discussion of the terms and/or a letter confirming them.”

Ewing’s letter also questions the city’s decision to sell the building through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., a quasi-city agency, which eliminates a requirement that the property be put up for bid.

Smith, however, said the city regularly disposes of property through PIDC. The legal authority allowing that is broad, she said.

The sale still requires City Council approval.

Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.

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