A clerical mistake could end up costing Fresno County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars over the sale of a disputed piece of property contaminated with hazardous materials.
The 14-acre property at 2696 S. Maple Ave. was sold by the county in 2014 during a routine transaction of property with delinquent tax bills. It was purchased for $460,000 by JHS, JCH & DBH Family Limited Partnerships, and was going to be used as a warehouse to store building supplies and equipment.
The deal seemed like a good one, as it included both the land and a 130,000-square-foot industrial building. The only problem was that the owners didn't realize the land was contaminated until after they purchased it. And the cost to clean up the property is estimated to be more than $500,000.
The new property owners sued the county for breach of contract, saying they should have been told the land was contaminated. Although the county admitted it made a mistake by not making potential bidders aware of the contamination, a Fresno Superior Court judge found in the county's favor. An appeal of the decision to the 5th District Court of Appeal, however, disagreed and returned the case to Superior Court.
The four-year saga took a new twist on Tuesday as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to have both sides get together and try and hash out a settlement.
The supervisors were set to vote on rescinding the sale and taking the property back. But that didn't sit well with several of them, especially since the owners of the property are using it to run their business.
"We have to find a reasonable recourse," said Supervisor Brian Pacheco. "I have complete empathy for the property owner and I want to make this right."
Supervisor Andreas Borgeas suggested the board delay voting on the issue for 60 days, allowing both sides to come up with a possible settlement.
Jim Wilkins, an attorney representing the business partners, agreed to the deal. After the meeting, he said that his clients have already spent $300,000 on getting rid of the hazardous materials from the site. Wilkins believes the toxic material may have come from an auto-related business on the property.