Council goes slow on land decisions
by Jon Mendelson
Sep 20, 2012 | 2448 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Tracy City Council chose a deliberate course of action Tuesday, Sept. 18, regarding several land-use decisions.

City staff members had proposed buying 150 acres of the old antenna farm off Schulte Road for $1.1 million; replenishing the fund used for the Schulte Road purchase by selling a city-owned parcel on the northeast corner of 11th Street and Chrisman Road; and gathering information via public meetings about the possible development of Tracy Ballpark off Tracy Boulevard.

Of the three items, the council decided 4-1, with Councilman Robert Rickman dissenting, to immediately pursue only a sale of the Chrisman Road property, which during the past 24 years has been considered for various uses, including a college campus.

Before the meeting, City Manager Leon Churchill said the 108-acre parcel of farmland could sell for $30,000 to $50,000 an acre. He added that it was ripe for sale because it produces only about $23,000 annually from a lease agreement, does not fit the westward pattern of the city’s growth, and ultimately is underperforming for taxpayers.

He said 24 years of not finding a use for the land was “enough evidence” that it could be sold.

Churchill said money from the sale could be put into the Residential Specific Plan fund, seeded by a legal settlement with developers and used in recent years to pay for economic development projects.

The council must still approve any offer to buy the property.

The City Council was more circumspect when asked to purchase the Schulte Road property or consider alternative uses for the Tracy Ballpark, including possible residential development.

The council directed staff members to get more solid information about the best use for the Schulte Road site, which has been considered for an educational facility, sports parks and most recently a solar energy project with GWF Energy, which owns a nearby power plant.

The federal General Services Administration agreed to sell the land to the city for that project, but if it is not purchased by the end of September, the land will be retained by the GSA, according to city staff members.

The city can buy the land and use it for whatever purpose it deems prudent, Churchill said at the Tuesday meeting, though he recommended pursuing some kind of renewable energy project.

“There is no legal requirement to develop alternative energy at the site,” he told the council. “However, … (the city) made the argument it could be developed for green energy purposes. … That’s been the intent behind developing the property.”

The council, however, balked at immediately spending $1.1 million in Residential Specific Plan money. Mayor Brent Ives said the fund is limited and should be guarded. He wanted more certainty that the land purchase was the best way to spend the $1.1 million.

“I’m jealously guarding our RSP funds, because those are our last and best opportunity to attract and create jobs,” Ives said.

The council also directed city employees to table any process that would change the use of the Tracy Ballpark.

Staff members reported that a meeting Monday, Sept. 17, sought to gather community input about possibly turning the youth sports fields off Tracy Boulevard south of Grant Line Road into a housing development, while moving the youth sports practices to yet-to-be-built fields at the Holly Sugar Sports Complex.

The land was gifted to the city by the Ritter family in 1944.

Ives said he and the council “haven’t even been given the opportunities to look at the options” and asked the staff to return in a month with a more defined set of options for the Tracy Ballpark, including what it would take to renovate the aging sports complex.

“I think next month’s meeting is going to be more substantive,” Ives said. “I’m not sure that public discussion relative to potential development is even on the table.”

• For more on the Tracy Ballpark proposal, see the Friday print edition of the Tracy Press.

At a glance

WHAT: City Council meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18

WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza

DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel, councilmen Steve Abercrombie, Bob Elliott and Robert Rickman present.

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