Council gives OK to pursue bypass right of way

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 20, 2012 

LOS BANOS ENTERPRISE

Los Banos City Council members voted unanimously to immediately pursue the right of way for the Los Banos Bypass, a plan that had been put on hold pending the hiring of a new city manager.

"This has been dragging out for quite some time, and it really has nothing to do with the city manager," said City Manager Steve Rath. "It's really a legal issue."

City Council's vote Wednesday means Public Works Director Mark Fachin and City Attorney William Vaughn, along with Merced County Association of Governments, will look to work out a viable option with the landowner of the proposed bypass acreage.

"I'm just going to say it, without a right of way this thing is dead in the water," Rath said.

MCAG adopted a plan in May 2011 to use all future regional improvement and impact funds to pay for the acquisition of the first two phases -- out of three -- of the bypass before using that money anywhere else.

In March, $1.6 million was cleared for those phases, but the landowner wants to sell all three at once, which would cost $2.4 million -- $817,500 more than MCAG has for the bypass.

Impact fees have not been charged to commercial or industrial developers who have pulled building permits in Los Banos since January.

The one-year ordinance was introduced by a 3-2 vote.

Since the January suspension of fees, the 69,300 square feet of planned expansion for the Wal-Mart Supercenter, roughly $12,000-square-foot Les Schwab Tire Center and 6,800 square feet of the joint am-pm and McDonald's site have not generated what would have been $618,948 in regional impact funds.

Transportation fees on commercial and industrial buildings were set between $1,409 and $12,082 per 1,000 square feet. The rate is dependent on the building's size, type and turnover rate.

Suspending regional impact funds was seen by its supporters as a way to attract business. Plans for Wal-Mart and the joint McDonald's and am-pm go back to 2011, while Les Schwab came on board in April 2012.

Councilman Scott Silveira said MCAG has committed to acquiring right of way, and City Council should hold the agency to its promise.

"I think we just go back and ask them to hold up to what they said they'd do," Silveira said.

Rath plans to retire on Oct. 31.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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