County ends contract with West Park
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 29, 2012 | 1798 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
West Park developer Gerry Kamilos listens in on Aug. 21 as county supervisors decide whether to end their exclusive relationship with him to develop the Crows Landing Air Facility. Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday, Aug. 28, to do just that, opening up development of the former naval airbase to other developers. -- Irrigator file photo
West Park developer Gerry Kamilos listens in on Aug. 21 as county supervisors decide whether to end their exclusive relationship with him to develop the Crows Landing Air Facility. Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday, Aug. 28, to do just that, opening up development of the former naval airbase to other developers. -- Irrigator file photo
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MODESTO — It’s the end of the line for PCCP West Park developer Gerry Kamilos — at least for now — after Stanislaus County supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday, Aug. 28, to terminate its contract with the would-be developer of the Crows Landing Air Facility.

The vote, which came after Kamilos missed a July 10 deadline to pay a $2.75 million required deposit for project studies, ends a five-year exclusive negotiating relationship with the developer. His plan entailed building a 2,930-acre industrial park on and around the 1,528-acre former U.S. naval airfield, most of which is owned by the county.

Supervisors agreed — with Dick Moneith dissenting and Terry Withrow abstaining because of a potential conflict of interest — to open up development of the airfield to new developers, while keeping many of the requirements that were imposed upon West Park exactly the same. Supervisors previously held off on voting on the matter last week to allow more time for staff input.

“Today, I’m going to vote to terminate an agreement because a requirement we made was not met,” said board Chairman Bill O’Brien, who cast the deciding vote. “And if we change that requirement for someone else and make that lesser, I just don’t think that’s fair.”

Requirements included making improvements to water facilities in the town of Crows Landing, on-site fire protection at the airfield and an acknowledgement that lawsuits may affect the timeline of the project requirement.

By contrast to Kamilos’ proposal, supervisors decided to make short-haul rail optional for future developers, pleasing several West Side attendees who had been critical of that aspect of the West Park project.

In addition, they decided to only require a $2 million deposit for environmental studies, eliminating a requirement to pay $750,000 upfront for airport facility improvements. The project developer eventually would have to pay for those improvements after entitlements were in place, but county staff and supervisor Jim DeMartini thought that requiring the $750,000 up front could deter would-be developers.

Kamilos told supervisors during the meeting that he would be able to accommodate them regardless of what they decided to do. He offered to complete environmental studies within six months time, reversing back to his position in June. During the Aug. 21 meeting, he had asked supervisors to give him until late April to complete those studies.

The developer pleaded with supervisors to keep short-haul rail as a requirement for the county project, saying that Union Pacific railroad already had done eight months worth of modeling regarding the short-haul rail proposal and that local businesses such as Blue Diamond and W.W. Grainger had expressed interest in it.

He said he took full accountability for project delays, despite a lawsuit from the city of Patterson and problems with his former financial backer, Lehman Brothers. At the same time, he said other projects of the same scope had taken much longer to complete.

“It’s a tough situation, but I’m here. I’m across from the podium, looking you in the eye and trying to sort out how to move ahead,” Kamilos said.

Kamilos left the supervisors chambers immediately after the vote, but he said after last week’s meeting that he planned to reapply to develop the airfield if the county opened the process up to new developers.

Supervisors and attendees alike were not as verbose on the Crows Landing development as in the past. The board’s decision on West Park came at the end of a five-hour marathon meeting, much of which was devoted to a controversial town home project in Modesto’s Del Rio Country Club.

Monteith, a staunch West Park supporter and the lone supervisor to vote against ending the contract with Kamilos, did not speak at all prior to his vote. By contrast, DeMartini, whose district includes the West Side, continued to express wholehearted opposition to Kamilos' project. The District 5 supervisor has continually taken Kamilos to task for missed deadlines and problems with other development projects and has said the bulk of his experience is in residential development, not industrial development.

“It’s time to just wipe this slate clean and start over again, but I want to make sure we have a nice clean start,” DeMartini said. “I want to make sure that the developer we use has a nice track record.”

Supervisor Terry Withrow, a past West Park critic who abstained from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest over land that his wife owns near the project site, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the outcome.

Kamilos’ proposal included a 157-acre “inland port” where goods would be shipped to and from the Port of Oakland by rail, as well as a 250-acre solar energy facility, use of the airport and the inclusion of space for distribution centers and manufacturing firms. His most recent figures indicated the project could have provided up to 13,000 permanent jobs.

Supervisors twice granted Kamilos extensions when he missed key deadlines for his project’s environmental impact report, once in March 2011 and again in June. He promised in June to have the report completed by Jan. 31, agreeing to offer a $2.75 million deposit for environmental studies and for airport improvements by July 10 as an incentive.

While $1 million was placed on deposit in a private account, the county never received any of the money.

O'Brien appeared displeased with the high amount the county had required of Kamilos for the deposit after county staff said Tuesday that they expected a future environmental impact report would likely only cost no more than $750,000. However, county assistant executive officer Keith Boggs noted that Kamilos' proposal was twice the size of the current proposal, which only encompasses the airbase itself, and said West Park appeared to have solvency issues.

Looking ahead, county staff plans to send out a formal Request for Development by Nov. 1 for development of the airfield and plans to give developers until February to respond. After that, they hope to have a state-mandated environmental review process complete within 12 to 14 months.

• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

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