TURLOCK — The City Council unanimously approved the purchase of two vacant pieces of property for $1.5 million to complete its Regional Transit Center.
The two undeveloped parcels totaling 1.6 acres sit in front of the existing Turlock Regional Transit Center along Golden State Boulevard between Hawkeye Avenue and Dels Lane. The land is owned by Santa Barbara-based Tiare Development LLC and was sold for 18 percent above its appraisal value.
The council discussed the purchase at its meeting Tuesday night. Turlock Housing Program Services manager Maryn Pitt explained the settlement price to the council.
Pitt said public agency purchases have to be weighed against the costs of moving forward with a settlement or pursuing eminent domain proceedings. In this case, an outside review determined the city would incur at least an additional $150,000 in legal costs and other fees if it were to pursue eminent domain.
"We've been in lengthy negotiations with sellers of property and a lengthy process imposed with Federal Transit Administration to use federal dollars," she said. "We found the settlement to avoid eminent domain and all its accompanying fees to be the best option. Otherwise, we would have to start the lengthy process over again."
Pitt said public agency transactions work differently from private party sales because the appraisal is the floor price in negotiations.
The two parcels appraised at $1.23 million. The city has been negotiating with the sellers since late 2011.
Councilman Steven Nascimento said he wanted the public to understand the process. "I had concern on this item because it did seem this price was high. I wanted it to be known in a public setting why the city was paying over the appraised value," he said.
Pitt noted that the funding for the purchase, which includes Local Transportation Fund and Proposition 1B, needed to be expended within the next year or the city would lose the money.
The city purchased the previous two parcels that the existing transit center sits on in April 2011. It paid $1.33 million for one 2.17-acre plot and $433,500 for the other 27,1000- square-foot property. That land was purchased using federal stimulus money.
With the council's unanimous approval of the sale, the city closes escrow on the parcels today.
Development of a transit operator building, where the public can buy passes and get information, will move forward on the land.
In other action:
During its Tuesday meeting, the council members also approved other purchases and ordinance changes. They included:
Purchase of $260,000 in office furniture and accessory from Warden's in Modesto for the new Turlock Public Safety Facility.
Change of city ordinance that makes it easier for nonprofit animal rescue groups to operate in the city by separating them from private kennel operations.
Change the city code to allow a maximum of 35, instead of 50, nonprofit groups to be granted firework sales permits per year.
Change of the start time of the regular council meetings to 6 p.m. from the current 7 p.m., to be enacted in 15 days.