A financial plan for assembling property as a potential site for the California high-speed rail project’s heavy maintenance facility will need a reboot after a developer’s proposal changed during talks with county agencies.
The Fresno County Transportation Authority took no action Wednesday on the plan by developer Tim Jones, but left the door open for him to return with a proposal to assemble the 17 properties and 700 acres for the project.
The heavy maintenance facility would bring about 1,500 jobs to the Valley.
In 2010, the Transportation Authority voted to use $25 million in Measure C money as an enticement for the state to select a Fresno-area site for the heavy maintenance facility. But that money would only be made available to the state if, and after, Fresno was chosen. Using that money ahead of time would violate rules for Measure C, the county’s half-cent transportation tax.
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However, Jones had proposed brokering deals with landowners, with the understanding that he would be reimbursed for escrow deposits to landowners after a year if the state hadn’t selected a site by then. To undertake such a plan would require amending Measure C to provide up to $750,000 – the amount Jones initially said it would cost – to reimburse him.
The concept was approved by the Fresno Council of Governments and, in October, the Fresno County Transportation Authority had asked for a proposal in writing.
Fresno County is in a very good position because we have $25 million in a lock box and if we’re chosen, the rail authority can take those dollars and use them however they desire to build the facility.
Harry Armstrong, Fresno County Transportation Authority chairman
When Jones submitted his plan in writing last month, he had included a 10 percent commission for himself and 3 percent for Pearson Realty, based on the value of the land purchased for the site. That commission could escalate beyond $1 million, based on land costs, and local officials are worried about public money being used in such a manner.
They also are concerned that even if Fresno County has the best site, Kern County’s proposed location near Shafter may be more attractive because it has one owner and is ready to go.
Tony Boren, executive director of the Fresno Council of Governments, said Wednesday that the commission was never part of the discussion as the proposal made its way through local agencies over the summer and earlier this fall.
Part of the reason for the proposal change was that property owners near the preferred site were raising the price for their land as it became common knowledge that properties in the Malaga area were targeted for the heavy maintenance facility. Boren said that raised costs for Jones, too.
The proposal to assemble the land is “premature,” said Harry Armstrong, chairman of the transportation authority, because the rail authority has been regularly pushing the date back.
“Fresno County is in a very good position, because we have $25 million in a lock box and if we’re chosen, the rail authority can take those dollars and use them however they desire to build the facility,” he said.
Authority board members agreed that Jones can present other proposals.