CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP— A decision to reverse a rental agreement last month by the Crystal Township Board resulted in a tense back-and-forth between business owners and township officials Wednesday evening.
During the board’s Feb. 8 meeting, the board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Chris Johnston absent, to solidify a rental agreement to be implemented with each current and potential tenant of the Crystal Community Center, which also houses township offices.
The rental structure was designed to include a rental rate of $25 for room rental at the building, with a cleaning deposit of $15. For the gymnasium, the hourly rental rate would be $10, unless the building’s kitchen, tables and chairs were also requested, in which the rate for gym space would increase to $20 an hour.
At the Feb. 8 meeting, the board also unanimously approved a rental agreement with Cassondra Gloden to rent a room at the Community Center for the purpose of art and painting classes for $25 a month, for six months.
However, at the board’s next meeting on March 8, the board voted 5-0 to revise the township’s lease agreement policy in renting out the Community Center. Board members stated they did not feel comfortable renting to commercial business owners such as Gloden, who owns Infinity Engraving, a laser engraving business, and looked to create a policy in which the township attorney would add “non-profit” or “non-commercial” status as a condition of lease agreements with the Community Center, when the lease agreement process is revised.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Gloden scolded board members for their treatment of renters of the Community Center in their handling of the situation.
According to Gloden, she received a notice from Clerk Patty Baker-Marek “asking” that she evict from the Community Center. Gloden said she only received the notice after she first discovered her rental agreement had been voided by reading about it in The Daily News.
“I had a statement and a bunch of questions I was going to ask you and my intention was to come here tonight and ask them … but my questions don’t matter,” Gloden said. “I tried to do something nice for this community. It was not about me making money. I’m disappointed. I’m beyond irritated that I spent 30 days moving my stuff into this space and not one of you called me to let me know it (revised lease agreement policy) was on the agenda. That’s not good business, and that’s not how you are going to grow this community.”
Gloden said she no longer took issue with having to move out of the Community Center, but only as long as she would be reimbursed for payments made thus far to the township.
“I don’t care about an apology because that should have happened weeks ago,” she said.
Immediately following Gloden in the discussion on the issue was Tonya McCarty, co-owner of Herbal Vibrations, massage business, which began renting a room at the Community Center in 2014.
Being a commercial business renting at the Community Center, McCarty received the same letter sent out by Baker-Marek asking that she also evict by May 1.
“I’m really sad because our community is dying. If one more business closes, I’m worried about what’s going to happen about this old town,” McCarty said. “Granted I’m just a little business, I don’t represent a lot of people, but I do have a voice and I would really, really like to see you guys revisit the choice that you made last month.”
In responding, Johnston said when the township purchased the Community Center (formerly Crystal Elementary School) in 2010 for $1 from Carson City-Crystal Area Schools, the intent of renting out rooms was for the township to serve as a “business incubator.”
Acting as a business incubator, the township aimed to help new businesses to develop by providing services such as office space at low rental rates.
“When this building was taken over, it was going to be an incubator system to start a business — not to bring in people that had businesses for several years, or for people to have businesses here for four-to-five years,” Johnston said.
Johnston said he couldn’t support renting with Golden because she was already an established owner, and with McCarty because her business was established after being in the Community Center for nearly three years and could no longer be considered under an incubator concept.
“Is it the taxpayers’ responsibility to rent to a business for $25 to $50 forever?” Johnston asked.
Gloden argued that in coming to the township, she never intended to operate her business at the Community Center, but rather teach art and painting classes.
“You’re making decisions on something that you never had written down or was clear,” she said. “Is that your position now, that it (Community Center) is only going to be rented to non-profits? In the township of Crystal, how many nonprofits do you think there are? You have a building that is decaying and you have the opportunity to get some revenue coming in.”
In defending the board’s decision, township resident Pat McShosh said she believes the businesses should relocate to the downtown district.
“There are spots available on Main Street,” she said. “If you have the instinct and belief that you can run a business, I think you need to go there.”
Gloden argued that after the way she was treated by the board, she has no desire to pursue business opportunities within the township.
“What could make you think, after all of this, that I would want to do business here? It is personal — I’m out,” she said, as she stood up and left the meeting abruptly.
In response to the situation, Baker-Marek said she would be contacting both Gloden and the township attorney Thursday to discuss the issue further.
Board Trustee George Bahm said he didn’t feel comfortable forcing the tenants to leave by May 1 with conversations ongoing with an attorney.
“They are being asked to leave before our next board meeting. So I think we need to get some kind of answers to them, prior to our next board meeting,” he said. “I’d make a motion that we revise the eviction notice to not be prior to June 1. “We’ll have more information and discuss the best direction at that point, as opposed to now, where nobody really knows what needs to be done.”
The motion to extend the eviction date from May 1 to June 1 passed 4-1, with Trustee Curt McCracken opposed.
“We’ve changed our mind twice with this, we might as well get it over with,” McCracken told The Daily News after the board meeting.
Johnston said the township’s rental agreement policy will continue to be revised as it is discussed with an attorney and will be discussed again by the board at its next meeting on May 10.