Friday, October 25, 2013

More coverage of the Mars Hill PR campaign to get already-purchased property
The Church had accused Sound Transit of taking the property by eminent domain, which Sound Transit denies. The Church has since backed down on that claim. Now the church leaders are questioning International Paper's acceptance of Sound Transit's offer.

 "We bid $250,000 over Sound Transit's bid," Dean said.

 In an email, a spokesman for International Paper in Memphis said that's not the case.
 "We accepted the highest and best overall offer which was from Sound Transit," wrote International Paper spokesman Kyle Morgolis. "Given our confidentiality agreement, we are unable to disclose the terms of the transaction".

 Sound Transit bristles at the idea it finalized the purchase agreement by undercutting and pushing Mars Hill out of any negotiation.

 "The idea that we intervened in the purchase of the property by them late in the game, that wasn't true," Patrick said. "We didn't here from them until a week after we entered a binding agreement to purchase that property".

The Seattle Times reports that Bellevue officials generally oppose Sound Transit locating a maintenance yard close to the 120th Ave station.  It also mentions that developer Wright Runstad broke ground last month on the 16-block project.

So if I understand this rightly not only was the real estate purchased before Mars Hill made a tangible offer but ground has already been broken on the real estate as of last month.
Justin Dean is quoted as saying that Mars Hill offered $250,000 more than Sound Transit. 

Justin Dean is quoted as saying that Mars Hill offered $250,000 more than Sound Transit.  What was the form of the offer?  Let's remember that in a recent feature on Sutton Turner Mars Hill's total budget is listed as $30 million.  Where was that $250,000+ $23,000,000 going to come from, a money fairy? An already inked deal beats an offer pending explanation, doesn't it?  "It's already been bought" seems simple, not odd.

But there's another possible reason that a Mars Hill offer would not look great compared to Sound Transit.  Internal communications within Mars Hill in 2013 have stated, from Mark Driscoll himself, that Mars Hill managed to avoid going over its own fiscal cliff.

How we avoided our own fiscal cliff
As we grow in numbers, we’re also growing in maturity thanks to the Holy Spirit. In early 2012, we moved to a new financial model, a change we’ve communicated in person at most of our churches.

Previously, our budget was based on annual giving. The problem was, a lot of our giving came in during December, which means we were operating at a loss during most of the year. Under the leadership of Executive Pastor Sutton Turner and Deacon Kerry Dodd (our CFO), we made a hard course correction and moved the church to a budget that does not depend on big giving spikes. We now live within our means year round, and as it turns out we made the shift just in time.

For the first time in a long time, the big December giving spike did not come. In the past, we’ve had some generous donors contribute significant gifts that have really helped us float from year to year. That didn’t happen last year. Our large givers are still with us at Mars Hill, but the national fiscal climate is such that no major year-end gifts came in. We understand and we’re praying for our brothers and sisters in this situation.

As a result, we were unable to raise our above-and-beyond goal in December. We did, however, raise enough to cover our operating expenses for the year, in large part because we spent $670,000 less than what we had budgeted for during the last six months of 2012. Throughout the church we are doing everything we can to be good stewards of what God has given us, and so we have significantly cut our spending as another part of our budget reform.

So the good news is, we implemented our new budget model just in time—had we not made the changes when we did, we would have faced our own version of a fiscal cliff. The not-so-good news is that we have inadequate funds to complete some necessary renovations: in downtown Seattle, we have a row of frozen outdoor porta potties instead of indoor bathrooms; in Everett, we have $126,000 to complete $750,000-worth of work on the building; and we can’t move into Tacoma until we raise another $600,000. Budget is tight, and we simply don’t have a lot of margin to complete these and other projects.
So if the church avoided its own fiscal cliff in the last year or so adjusting away from a financial model that was not good for its long-term future would it be a good idea to try to outbid a $23,000,000 purchase with an operating budget of $30,000,000?  Where's the fiscal sense in that? 

Mark Driscoll went so far as to tell Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church." earlier this year. Justin Dean can say whatever he likes but if Mark Driscoll tells Mars Hill they're not wealthy then where does Justin Dean think the money's going to come from to outbid Sound Transit on a deal that has already been inked? 

But then there's Thomas Hurst's statement that Mars Hill Bellevue is still in the core group phase.  That actually may require a separate post just to deal with that truncated history.  Mars Hill's presence via Acts 29 and former MH leaders over in Bellevue goes back further than the arrival of Hurst and Hurst should be in a position to know this all already. 

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