No development proposals received for Crows Landing site

kcarlson@modbee.comFebruary 1, 2013 

DN Crows Landing Naval

(Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) An abandoned air tower at the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station off Bell Rd, Crows Landing, June 14, 2012.

DEBBIE NODA — Modesto Bee

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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— An attempt to find a new developer for a prospective jobs center in western Stanislaus County reached a deadline at 2:30 p.m. Friday with no one submitting a proposal for the 1,531-acre Crows Landing site.

The county issued a detailed request for proposals in October in hope of luring a well-financed developer with ideas for the former Navy airfield, located not far from Interstate 5.

Keith Boggs, an assistant county executive officer, said he returned to the office after Friday's deadline to find no bid packets waiting for him. "We had zero," he said. "I never anticipated we would have a lot of proposals."

Boggs said one piece of correspondence arrived in the office Friday: a letter from West Park Holdings stating it was not going to send a formal proposal. Gerry Kamilos' West Park partnership was chosen as developer for the project in 2007, but county leaders cut ties with Kamilos in August after tiring of slow progress on plans for a logistics hub.

Kamilos' vision for a transportation center, with a rail link to the Port of Oakland, had aimed to create 13,000 jobs. When the county launched the latest bid process in the fall, the Kamilos group said it might submit another plan.

Boggs said he believed the uncertain economy and the large-scale size of the project were reasons for the lack of interest. He noted the county received only two proposals during the initial bidding in 2006 when the economy was humming.

Boggs said he will meet with county Chief Executive Officer Monica Nino on Monday to talk about options and then share them with the Board of Supervisors. He said he remains optimistic about the former air station that was turned over to the county in 2004.

"That piece of property is proximate to Interstate 5 on a logistics corridor that has proven successful in the last decade," Boggs said.

County Supervisor Jim DeMartini, whose district includes the site, said he's not in favor of trying another search for developers. The county should continue with a farm lease on the property for a few years until the economy improves, he said.

"Industrial projects are difficult," said DeMartini, noting the Crows Landing property lacks utilities and sewer and water systems. "It takes a very experienced industrial developer with money behind them to make something like that go."

Kamilos suggested in his letter to the county that financing was one reason for not bidding. It appeared the Sacramento developer still has interest in working with county officials.

"(In) event the county is not satisfied with the results of the current process, we would welcome the opportunity to (discuss) possible paths forward," he wrote.

County officials hoped to attract a new developer with fresh ideas after people who said they represented Texas development firm Matthews Southwest and Heritage Capital Group of Florida attended a Nov. 16 meeting on the bid process.

Hope began to diminish weeks later, however, when no one contacted the county during a period for asking additional questions. Representatives of Matthews Southwest, who had expressed the most interest at the November meeting, could not be reached Friday.

The county wanted to see comprehensive plans that stayed within the 1,531 acres and incorporated an aircraft runway. It also required prospective developers to prove their financial stability and deposit $2.75 million to pay for required studies.

"I am disappointed," said Vito Chiesa, county supervisors chairman. "I was hoping there would be more interest. Now we are going to have to regroup."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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