Rice field project won't go ahead

According to the Des Moines Register,

An investment group that included the late Ed Boesen has informed Des Moines school officials that it is pulling out of a deal to develop the former Rice Elementary School site.

Rice Development Partners told school officials that it intends to terminate an agreement to purchase the vacant school site at 3001 Beaver Ave. for $650,000.

The article quotes the attorney for the Des Moines school district as saying, “we have a valid and enforceable contract,” but I don’t see how they will be able to squeeze money out of this investment group. A long line of creditors are suing Ed Boesen’s estate.

It’s just as well to go back to the drawing board on Rice field. Perhaps it’s better to leave Beaverdale residents to enjoy this green space. If it is developed eventually, let’s hope there are no major conflicts of interest linking policy-makers to the developers selected for the site.

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Chris Coleman should have recused himself from Beaverdale tax vote

Last weekend I wrote that Des Moines City Council member Chris Coleman should have disclosed his business relationship with Ed Boesen before voting to approve an urban renewal district encompassing part of Beaverdale. Boesen was an investor in a development project for Rice field, which could qualify for tax breaks because of the urban renewal area.

Coleman initially said he saw no need to disclose his business relationship with Boesen, because the “CoBo” partnership had supposedly ended years ago.

But in an interview with the Des Moines Register, Coleman now says Boesen owed him $20,000 at the time of the key City Council votes:

Coleman today acknowledged Boesen owed him money even as the councilman voted three times in 2007 in support of Boesen’s Rice Development Partners $11.6 million Beaverdale project.

“I don’t think that the appearance of a conflict (of interests) means there is a conflict,” Coleman told the Register today. “It is two different things. I didn’t in any way feel that it was in any way tied to the Rice project.”

Coleman also acknowledged to the Register that he had a second business relationship with Boesen, in addition to a partnership called CoBo Investments that was formed in 1998.

Coleman sold a Beaverdale home on 49th Street to a Boesen-managed company in January – two months after the final vote on Rice Development Partners’ project – for nearly twice the current assessed value of the property.

But Coleman said he did not receive all of his proceeds from the sale of the house on 49th Street or from the 2005 duplex sale by CoBo Investments because Boesen did not fully pay him for either transaction.

Let me spell out to Coleman why there was a conflict of interest. If someone owes you money, you might have an interest in helping that person make a profit on some other project, because that might increase the chance that you’d get paid back.

In addition, it looks very bad for Boesen to be buying property from a City Council member shortly after the Beaverdale votes, especially for twice the assessed value of that property.

The fact that Coleman never received the full proceeds from the house sale makes no difference. Presumably he was expecting to receive that money.

This situation warrants further investigation.

Boesen’s death last month has been ruled a suicide. Several creditors are suing his estate. It is not clear whether his business partners will be able to go ahead with the Rice field project.

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