As the developer of the Villa Del Lago center in Patterson, I write in response to the Irrigator’s Feb. 16 article “City sues hotel for thousands in late taxes” (Page 6). When your reporter contacted me, I respectfully withheld comment. But now that the city’s attorney has chosen to comment publicly, and erroneously, I must respond.
My father farmed apricots on the current site of Villa Del Lago for more than 20 years, and our family has always been proud to be part of the Patterson community. In 1988, we decided to develop the property.
As many longtime residents will remember, Patterson used to flood every winter. This flooding caused significant agricultural and property damage and presented a major problem for the city and the county. Before I was allowed to develop my family’s property, both the city and county insisted I help solve this regional flooding problem. Our property wasn’t the cause of the flooding, but based upon the city’s demands, I gave up 4.2 acres of my property to construct a regional flood control basin. The basin and its related structures enabled the development of both our property and the surrounding West Side region, including the Keystone Business Park.
I agreed to provide the land and to finance and construct the regional flood control solution in exchange for a binding agreement that clearly states that I be reimbursed for the “regional value” of both the land I lost and the basin construction costs. Today, the city is legally responsible for the reimbursement obligation in that binding agreement.
In the Irrigator article, Deputy City Attorney Doug White said the issue of the storm drain improvements did not come up until after the city sued me for approximately $90,000 in occupancy taxes. Mr. White’s statement is factually inaccurate and irresponsible, and he has either ignored or failed to investigate my past attempts to negotiate in good faith with the city.
The truth is that in 2004, immediately after the city of Patterson voluntarily annexed my property, I asked the city to repay me the millions of dollars I had advanced to build the regional flood control basin. Each time I approached the ever-changing city representatives in the following months and years, I received the same response — “not yet.” Now, the city’s lawyer has flip-flopped that response, saying I waited too long.
When the city sued me for past-due taxes, it was well aware that those taxes were part of more than $1 million a convicted felon had embezzled from the hotel in 2007. The city was also aware of the reimbursement obligation it had assumed when it annexed the property and the regional flood control basin.
Despite my repeated requests, the city has refused to meet with me to discuss an amicable and forward-looking resolution of its reimbursement obligations and the embezzled occupancy tax. This matter could be resolved quickly and in the best interests of the community if the city sits down with me and agrees to a plan to live up to its obligations.
Dominic Speno Jr., Villa Del Lago developer