LEMOORE — At the June 6 Lemoore City Council meeting, the council was asked if it would like to partner in the development of land parcels in Lemoore’s Industrial Park, to the tune of half a million dollars.

In an effort to boost economic development in the city, the land's owner, Tom Vorhees, is asking for the council's help in paying for a road and other infrastructure that would attract businesses to the site. However, the road is estimated to cost far more than originally projected, hence the request for the city to participate. 

In January 2014, the city of Lemoore sold a portion of the lot, located east of Highway 41 and south of Highway 198, to Vorhees. The sale was more of a trade with Vorhees, with the original agreement being that in exchange for developing the lot and paying for a road, he would retain ownership of the property and develop the area. 

The lot was parceled off into nine smaller buildable parcels, with each parcel consisting of approximately one acre, with the exception of a 1.78-acre parcel and another parcel that was identified as a future road to access the lots.

According to the terms of the agreement for purchase and sale of the property, Lemoore Project Manager Judy Holwell told council Vorhees was supposed to construct a road through the center of the lot, known as Venture Place, and also pay for infrastructure for water, sewer and storm drain lines.

Holwell said the city received a preliminary estimate of $187,000 from engineering firm Quad Knopf for development of the road, which included the cost of road construction, site preparation and grading, sanitary sewer line, domestic water line, storm drainage, conduit for dry utilities and road, curb and gutter.

Per the agreement, Holwell said Vorhees was supposed to get the road work done within 12 months. She said it took longer than expected to get the plans drawn up, so he asked for a one-year extension, which council granted.

During the extension, Holwell said Vorhees went to PG&E to get estimates for gas and electric installation. Holwell said it took PG&E almost an entire year to finish its approval of all the work that needed to be done, so Vorhees asked for another yearlong extension, which was again granted.

The city’s original agreement with Vorhees did not include sidewalk, gas, electric, landscaping or engineering costs.

Holwell said in 2016 Vorhees received estimates for all the work to be performed, with total prices ranging from $565,000 to $795,000. Now a year later, Vorhees is estimating the cost to be around $1 million; however, some of the work listed on the estimates is for work outside of the scope of the original agreement to build the road.

Now, Holwell said Vorhees is asking for up to $500,000 from the council to partner with him in the building of the 60-foot wide road, including construction of the road, water and sewer lines, storm drainage, sidewalk, curb, gutter and gas and electric.

Holwell said Vorhees has indicated that the proposal is in an effort to bring economic development into the city, perhaps attracting businesses like a car dealership or a hotel. Three of the lots are along Highway 41 and have high visibility to passersby. 

Lemoore Mayor Ray Madrigal asked if there was potential interest from businesses for any of the parcels. Holwell said people have asked her about the property, but nothing specific has come about to her knowledge.

Councilwoman Holly Blair asked if businesses would be more inclined to locate at Venture Place if all the amenities were there prior to them coming in. Holwell said it would be an incentive because the land is then considered “shovel ready” and the businesses could start building right away.

The city has a few options when considering Vorhees’ request, including paying for half of the road, engineering and all other improvements at an estimated cost of up to $500,000. They could also pay for half of the road, water and sewer line construction, conduit for dry utilities and engineering at a cost that is unknown at this time.

Another option would be to allow Vorhees to build a private road that he would need to agree to maintain, which would require modifications to the parcel map and additional engineering. Or council could take no action and Vorhees would have until January 2018 to construct the road as shown on the current parcel map.

If council chooses one of the options that helps pay for the development, the money would most likely come from development impact fees. The expense is not included in the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, and a budget amendment would be necessary to obtain the money.

Councilman Dave Brown said Venture Place is in a great area and he thinks it would be good for the city to develop there because it would bring in sales tax revenue, but he was apprehensive about spending that amount of money on an unbudgeted item.

After nearly an hour of discussion, council members seemed excited about the prospect of finally getting development in that area, but decided to study the options more closely and decide something in a more private manner with Vorhees.

If nothing happens by December 2018, the agreement expires and the land reverts back to the Lemoore Redevelopment Agency and the city would be back at square one.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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