Supreme Court Dismisses YMCA Case

The Supreme Court of Virginia has dismissed the lawsuits against the Young Men’s Christian Association’s planned fitness center in McIntire Park, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. ACAC and Gold’s Gym sued Charlottesville and Albemarle County after the governments struck a deal with the YMCA to put a gym in the park, but didn’t open the process to a competitive bidding process that would have allowed either of those businesses to have a shot, as is standard in the procurement process.

The 39-page opinion makes for an interesting read. Although § 15.2-953 of the Virginia Code allows localities to provide money or property to non-profit organizations in exchange for those organizations providing services to citizens, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ actions here really should be governed by procurement law, and not by § 15.2-953. The court disagreed, citing a 2007 case to say that the gyms are “attempt[ing] a third-party challenge to a governmental action when such a challenge is not otherwise authorized by statute.” “ACAC alleges that it pays taxes in Albemarle County, it is not seeking to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Albemarle County and thus does not allege a justiciable controversy.” Also, the plaintiffs didn’t name the YMCA as a defendant, making it impossible for the court to compel them to do anything in this matter. The court considers a string of similar claims, and comes to the same conclusion in every case—there’s nothing that the court can do about them.

It was in December of 2007 that City Council voted to lease parkland to the YMCA—just over five years ago—and May of 2010 that the lawsuits were filed. This legal dispute was said to be the only thing standing in the way of starting construction, so presumably that’s the next step.

15 Responses to “Supreme Court Dismisses YMCA Case”

  • Frankly Psuedo says:

    Another instance of “move along, nothing to see here” so typical found with Charlottesville in the generalized sense.

  • Hawkins Dale says:

    This case still bugs me.

    I’m no booster of ACAC or its owner, Phil Wendell, but they have a really good point: if the city wants a gym, why were the purveyors of gymnasia not permitted to bid on the project? It’s possible that they could have provided the service for cheaper, or better, or something… or maybe not. But why were they shut out of the process?


  • Barbara Myer says:

    I’m sorry, but this is the young MEN’S CHRISTIAN association being given stuff (large chuncks of a park and, oh, some cash) by the taxpayers via the city council. I, too, am not a fan.

  • danpri says:

    Only one thing that Golds/ACAC dont like a about the YMCA.. Try to find that info on the others website.

    And Barbara… it is def too bad they make you recite a bible verse before you are allowed inside…not. You make it seem like a nonprofit agency out to help those is need is a bad thing.

  • Claire says:

    Hawkins, could it be that what the city wanted was a *nonprofit* to provide those services? And that’s why they weren’t interested in bids from ACAC/Golds?

    I’d much rather have the YMCA (MEN’S CHRISTIAN or not) be given stuff by the taxpayers than a private for-profit corporation.

  • Webster 52 says:

    At least the lawsuit gave us our park for a few more years.

  • John says:

    The truth is that the YMCA is part of the community…the facts are that the YMCA does not Turn ANYONE away for membership and offers scholarship help to those who cannot pay…from a few dollars up to FREE memeberships. No one else does that. Also remember that the YMCA offers leadership programs…before and after school programs…Healthy Kids Day…Summer Camps…Babysitting certifications…CPR training for all staff…Pre-school…Reduced cost swim lessons…Youth Basketball…Adult basketball…Karate lessons..LIVESTRONG at the YMCA (FREE) for cancer other words a Non-Profit who supports families in thier communities and actually goes out and particpates in health fairs, and other community events.

  • Webster 52 says:

    John, The city Parks and Rec does all of what you stated above. The Carver Rec Center will serve our low income city residents better than the Y. The Y will mostly serve county residents.

  • DandyTiger says:

    I seem to remember the YMCA said they’d have to fund raise all over again because of the delay. Is that still true?

    One pet peeve I have is this not for profit shield or excuse. That’s mostly meaningless. If you want to find the highest paid executives amongst organizations, look to not for profits first. Most organizations don’t make “profit”, they make sure they spend or invest what they take in. It’s an artificial differentiation. Not that I’m a fan of any particular organization, but this seems like it was effectively a no bid award, which should always give people pause.

    Another question, so if this religions based organization changes their charter down the road, say like the Boy Scouts did, does the city, and their taxpayers, get their money back?

  • Claire says:

    City Parks and Rec, it seems to me, might *want* to do awesome things for the city population, but they seem awfully hobbled in regards to building fab new facilities. There’s next to no money for the City to build more facilities, and citizens seem unwilling overall to vote for more funding. The YMCA seems capable of building fab new stuff.

    I do see a difference in the way that nonprofits and for-profits function. Nonprofits, in my experience, don’t have to adapt their product/services to the imperative to make as much money as quickly as possible–they don’t have to chase the market. That means they can do things like offer low-cost memberships; ACAC offers only expensive memberships, partly to make a lot of money, but ALSO because that keeps the riff-raff out, and the people who can pay a lot of $$ for ACAC expressly *don’t* want riff-raff exercising next to them. A nonprofit can prioritize other values besides the values of the marketplace. I think the point about executive compensation is a red herring–the fact that the executives get paid a lot has no bearing at all on whether or not a nonprofit functions differently from a for-profit.

    In regards to the charter: I think the city “gets their money back” if part of the contract specified that the YMCA couldn’t change its charter. But if the contract specifies “you build this facility and give residents access to it” and that’s what the YMCA does, then I’m not sure why the city would get its money back if the Y makes a change to its charter.

  • DandyTiger says:

    Claire, you’d be surprised what fun laws religions based organizations have at their disposal if they want. YMCA could change their charter, like the Boy Scouts, to say gays are not allowed. The city would say their agreement says you can’t do that. The YMCA would say, sorry bub, we have religious freedoms and rights, you can’t kick us out now. I’m not saying the YMCA would do this, but they could. Just look at the Boy Scouts and the things they’ve done, including on city and county grounds around the country.

    The not for profit vs. profit things you bring up are religious arguments. That is, one is good and one is evil. There’s no way to respond to that. I stand by my argument that it’s an artificial distinction not worthy of such a restriction in this case.

  • **** says:

    “There’s next to no money for the City to build more facilities,”
    Was that meant in jest?
    Drive down 4th street and you can pass the shiny new Jefferson School project where the City gave away the land and building and a truckload of cash and loan guarantees to get a project built then next on to the shiny new homeless hotel that cost more per square foot than most of the homes this city’s tax base live in. Avon St has a shiny new bus complex. Thats three off the top of my head in the last year or two and ignoring the city’s share of the $200M water plan we don’t need.

  • Claire says:

    I didn’t say anything about good v. evil–that’s weird. Functionally, nonprofits have a different set of constraints that they operate under than for-profits. You’re superimposing a moral structure on those constraints, but the fact is that nonprofits are able to do things differently than for-profits.

    asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk (wtf?), I was responding specifically to Webster52’s claim that City Parks & Rec “does all of what [was] stated above. The Carver Rec Center will serve our low income city residents better than the Y. The Y will mostly serve county residents.” City Parks & Rec doesn’t appear to have the budget to build the kind of facility the Y is going to build. The City isn’t going to prioritize that kind of facility, so to get it built, we get someone else to spend most of the money. Webster52 seems to believe that City Parks & Rec is more than enough for “our low income city residents,” which is really, really generous of him. “Be happy with Carver Rec, that’s good enough for you.”

  • Webster 52 says:

    Claire, you have obviously not been to the Smith Aquatic and Fitness Center, the New Carver rec center or even the Downtown rec center. They are not just for our low income residents. Thanks to the Smith center, CHS has the finest public school swimming pool for their meets in the state. Looking at the blueprints of the Y, there is no indication it will match or exceed these facilities. Carver Rec has an Open house today. Go and look for yourself!

  • Claire says:

    Yes, I have been to the facilities.

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