Dormitory debate heats up

The majority of Glendale Community College trustees expressed support during a special meeting Thursday for entering into a preliminary agreement with a developer to build a proposed campus dormitory.

On the table is a one-year, exclusive right-to-negotiate contract with WAM Development Group, which would give the firm the go-ahead to explore building a $30-million, 175-room residential facility on the college’s upper parking lot. The dormitory would house international and out-of-state students, and would be constructed and operated with no up-front costs to the college, according to the developers.

The concept was born out of a burgeoning “sister city” relationship between Glendale and multiple cities and provinces in South Korea, which is expected to bring at least 20 additional Korean students to a campus that already enrolls about 500 internationals.

Glendale Community College has until Oct. 15 to submit a formal letter of interest to the developer.

In recent weeks, stakeholders have voiced concerns about lost parking, liability issues and hidden costs. But Thursday, Christopher Fallon, legal counsel for the college, described the letter of interest as largely benign, adding that he had reviewed and modified it to ensure it does not expose the college to any undue risks.

If, after the one-year exploratory period, officials were to decide the project was not right for the campus, they could opt not to proceed, Fallon said.

Those in favor of submitting a letter of interest to WAM Development Group characterized it as a chance to explore what could be a major asset for the college.

“Somebody has come to us and offered us an opportunity to get information, and if that information will lead us in helping our college in the future, I am for it,” said college trustee Tony Tartaglia.

Others expressed confidence in college officials to properly vet any significant contract proposals that might arise.

“No one is making a binding commitment here,” trustee Vahe Peroomian said. “To get a chance to explore the possibility of having this dormitory — I don’t think we should pass that opportunity up.”

But college board Vice President Armine Hacopian took issue with saying the letter of interest comes at no cost to the college, noting the hours of staff time that have been invested in reviewing it. She was also loath to lease college property to a private entity for a profit-making venture, she added.

And college trustee Ann Ransford voiced reservations about WAM Development Group itself, citing misspelled words in a draft of the letter that the firm delivered to the college, and a recent telephone conference during which a WAM representative repeatedly referred to Glendale Community College as a “university.”

“I have been underwhelmed about their understanding of the campus and the community,” Ransford said.

Others maintained that neither the college nor the developer could hope to adequately address all the variables in the current stage of the proposal.

“What the board is trying to do and what various groups on campus have been trying to do is put everything into this letter of intent,” said Academic Senate President Mike Scott. “We need to refocus and understand the letter of intent is just to research and look at whether this dorm project makes any sense for Glendale Community College.”

The college Board of Trustees is scheduled to discuss the letter of interest for the dormitory project at its meeting on Monday.

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