Los Banos moves forward with industrial park plan

dwitte@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 1, 2014 

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DAVID WITTE — dwitte@losbanosenterprise.com Buy Photo

The City Council voted Wednesday to set aside $70,500 for planning for a 1,500-acre industrial park at Interstate 5 and Highway 165.

A guidance package and conceptual master plan will be put together by Quad Knopf Inc., a planning firm, and presented to the Merced County Board of Supervisors in late October. Quad Knopf was the only firm to submit a proposal, but city staff was satisfied that it met the criteria for the request as well as the city’s schedule.

Assistant planner Stacy Elms told the council the city hopes to recoup planning costs with a reimbursement agreement with developers.

The pre-development costs, which were approved unanimously, break down into $14,800 for a preliminary feasibility study – the phase the project is in now – followed by Quad Knopf’s guidance package, which is not to exceed $55,500, among other costs.

The finished project’s property tax revenues would be split between the county and the city – 80 percent to the county and 20 percent to Los Banos. Elms said the estimation was $5 million a year total, with $1 million going to Los Banos. She added the project was estimated to bring about 10,000 jobs.

The only land in the project that would become city land would be the relocated airport, which will move from Pacheco Boulevard and West I Street to a 300-acre spot within the industrial park with a 9,000-foot runway capable of handling cargo aircraft.

While the project is modeled after similar ones in Tracy and Patterson, Councilwoman Deborah Lewis looked farther west to San Jose.

“Years ago, when Silicon Valley started up, a lot of businesses started up in garages,” she said. “But the city of San Jose was committed to the infrastructure. We need to put it in the ground. We have to be ready for it.”

“We are just very excited. All the comments by the council members tonight just warms my heart and makes me feel good that everybody’s on board 150 percent,” said Mayor Mike Villalta. “You have complete focus on bringing jobs to Los Banos, and this one aspect of the council is steadfast in making this happen.”

City Manager Steve Carrigan said the challenge lies in convincing property owners Greg Hostetler and Granville Homes.

“They’re making money out there today with almonds,” Carrigan said. “So I walk up and say, ‘Hey, the city wants to help develop your property in the county to bring jobs.’ And they’re making money. And they said, ‘Show me how you’re going to make me money.’ That’s the challenge, to show how I’m going to make them money.”

Carrigan said the property owners are on the city’s side, giving Los Banos the leverage to demand 20 percent revenue sharing.

Once Quad Knopf has the package ready, the city will present it to the working group, which includes representatives of the city, the county and the land owners, on Aug. 8. Another presentation is set for the Board of Supervisors in late October.

“It’s the first step in a journey of a million steps, and it started tonight,” Carrigan said.

In other action, the city sought more input on draft Plan 3 for moving from at-large to by-district elections. The council had no comments, and no members of the public spoke.

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