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Sale of Valley City auditorium pending historical society review

VALLEY CITY — Valley City’s sale of its City Auditorium is pending a review by the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The City Commission received a notice of violation dated Jan. 15 from the historical society after local media reports ran headlines stating the city had sold the auditorium, which was added to the state’s registry of historic buildings in 2008.

The commission voted Jan. 7 to approve the sale of the auditorium to property developers Brandon and Lindsey Culver for $1,000, but City Administrator David Schelkoph said Thursday that the sale is pending, and the application to sell the building — locally referred to as the “Audi” — had just recently been submitted to the State Historical Society.

“They thought that we had already sold the Audi, but what happened was the commission voted to sell the ‘Audi’ and start the paperwork,” Schelkoph said. “They saw that it’s sold and they got a little excited about that, and rightfully so.

“It just happened so fast we didn’t have a chance to contact anybody, so when we got this letter it was a very big surprise to us because we hadn’t sold it yet; we don’t have any signatures on any pieces of paper that says it’s physically sold.”

State Historical Society architectural historian Lorna Meidinger said articles announcing the sale misled the agency, and her office began reviewing the city’s application Thursday afternoon. Historic buildings are protected under North Dakota Century Code 55-02-07, which identifies the sale of historic property as disposal and limits what structural changes may be done.

“They (property owners) send in what their plans are to us and we review them for what effect they have on the building,” Meidinger said. “Technically we have 60 days by law, but normally as soon as we get them we can take a look at them in a couple of days. We don’t want to have unnecessary delays and the only time there are is if there’s questions regarding some aspect.”

Brandon Culver said the primary plan is to remodel the main floor of the building, which was built in 1936, into an event center, but he is also looking at other options.

“At this point I don’t really want to talk about what those are because we’re still working out what those are exactly,” Culver said. “Plan A would be an event center, but we’re also actively looking at plans B and C, which could be different companies that might go in there.”

The city tried to sell the auditorium last year, but the sale fell through. Schelkoph said it costs $25,000 to $30,000 a year to maintain the building, and with last year’s sale looking like a sure thing, the city did not budget any money for operating the auditorium. He also said the building has been used less frequently since the opening of the Hi-Liner Activity Center at Valley City Public High School.

The City Auditorium is across the road from the Sheyenne River. Schelkoph said due to the auditorium’s location in the flood plain, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had to be involved in many structural decisions about the building. FEMA lost its authority when the auditorium was added to the State Historical Society’s register of historic buildings. The historical society allowed the installation of high-efficiency thermal pane windows last year.

The building has been managed by Valley City Parks and Recreation, and an assessment last year found the building in adequate condition.

“The guy said it was in good condition — it wasn’t excellent, it probably needs some work — but it is in very good condition and we’ve taken care of it,” Schelkoph said. “It looks so much better than it did. The wood was falling apart and it really needed some work. We’ve been putting in investments to keep the building up.”