Stanislaus County hopes to lure developer with Crows Landing study

kcarlson@modbee.comJune 15, 2013 

  • 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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    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

— While waiting for the economy to heat up, Stanislaus County will spend $685,000 on an environmental review of its proposal for a 1,524-acre job center near Crows Landing.

Officials want to complete the environmental process and some land-use planning before another attempt to lure a master developer. A consultant will be hired to conduct the studies.

The county spent five years waiting for Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos to make progress with his plan for West Park, a proposed transportation hub to employ 13,000 people at the former Crows Landing naval base.

After cutting ties with Kamilos last year, the county's request for proposals from other developers attracted no bids in February.

County leaders concluded the slow recovery was one reason for the lack of interest. By completing the environmental work, officials hope the site is more attractive when proposals are sought from developers again.

Supervisors approved the funding for the studies in a consent item last week.

"There is no one interested in doing the project right now," said Supervisor Jim DeMartini, whose district includes the former base. "When we get this done, we can put out another request for proposals."

A developer would be expected to reimburse the county for costs of the studies. The county will pull the $685,000 from its economic development bank, which has a balance of $1.1 million.

Supervisors want to see the former airfield converted to a single-runway general aviation airport, flanked by industries and businesses compatible with aviation. The county could start work on a plan for water, sewer, drainage, fire protection and other basic facilities.

The county is expected to explore an agreement with Patterson for sewage treatment. Other planning will focus on better road connections between the center and Highway 33 and Interstate 5. Officials believe it will take 18 months to finish the environmental work and get land-use designations approved for the former airfield.

With the new approach, the county essentially drops a previous requirement that a developer deposit $2.75 million to pay for studies. The county pulled the plug on West Park after Kamilos failed to make the deposit by the deadline last July.

Officials have talked about other ways to make the site more appealing, such as changing a requirement for runway improvements or not forcing a developer to improve the town of Crows Landing's water system.

One firm that expressed an interest after Kamilos was fired was Texas-based Matthews Southwest development company. A real estate broker who worked with the company said it was interested in bringing an air cargo operator to Crows Landing.

The broker said the county's timeline for building industrial space was too ambitious because of the slow economy in the valley. Matthews Southwest decided not to submit a bid.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Vito Chiesa said Thursday that the lack of interest allows for time to do the preliminary work. If the county ultimately finds a master developer, it will expedite the process of developing the site and creating jobs, he said.

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

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