A move to try and add more parking near Wilton Drive will depend on the cost.

Commissioners, receptive to the need for more parking but wary of the cost of a previous parking lot, told City Manager Joseph Gallegos and City Attorney Kerry Ezrol to begin negotiations with the owner of 1008 NE 23 Drive.

The lot, undeveloped and empty, is located behind Bona Pizza on the north end of Wilton Drive. “That’s where we need it,” said Commissioner Tom Green.

Adrienne Foland, a real estate agent who represents the owner, Scott Manin, said he’s willing to sell the property, which is listed for $499,000, but won’t for less than the $458,000 he has already invested. The commission wants to acquire it for the appraised value – $367,000 – or less.

If the city can’t convince the owner to sell, Foland says he plans to build three high-end townhouses.

“It has to be under $400,000,” said Vice Mayor Scott Newton during the Aug. 11 commission meeting. Newton also promised that, should the developer decline the city’s offer, three townhouses is all he would be allowed to construct. “He can build his three or he can negotiate with us.”

Before Manin purchased the property in 2014, code liens had accrued for unpaid lawn and maintenance bills totaling $70,142.45. Since he purchased it though, city staff said he’s maintained the property in good condition. The city may use that to its advantage to get Manin to sell for less than he wants.

“He owes us a lot of money,” Gallegos said.

Mayor Gary Resnick and Commissioner Julie Carson also said the purchase cost has to be at or below the appraised value.

“I can’t support a blank check. It has to make financial success,” Resnick said.

Engineering firm Chen & Associates estimates 18 to 24 spaces could be built at a cost between $180,000 and $240,000 “depending on the level of hardscaping, landscaping, irrigation, site lighting, and drainage required on the site.” The city’s parking firm, Lanier, said between 40 and 45 cars are packed into the lot during peak business hours.

The city’s last parking lot, at the corner of Northeast 26 Street and Northeast 8 Terrace across from Kids In Distress, was opened in April of 2014. It provides 42 spaces and the final cost, including the purchase of the properties, the demolition of the existing structures and the paving, was $788,000.

In March of 2012, before the properties were purchased, city staff members estimated the cost of buying and paving the properties would be about $650,000. In November of 2013, before commissioners voted to pave the lot, the estimate had increased to the final number. Resnick, at the time of the construction and at various times since, has criticized the cost as “inordinate” but a necessary project.

“I’m tired of this commission getting numbers and they’re way askew [after we decide to build],” Newton said.

Green defended city staff, saying that the improved economy resulted in an increase in construction costs. He also declined to instruct Gallegos to put a ceiling on the cost of purchase so he would be “free to negotiate.”

According to Finance Director Bob Mays, $800,000 is available in the Parking Fund to pay for parking improvements. Out of that money, $150,000 is pledged towards new parking meters and $526,000 comes from what’s left of the $1.1 million the city borrowed in 2011 to specifically make parking improvements along Wilton Drive.