County looks for new air base suitor
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Nov 01, 2012 | 3743 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Stanislaus County officials released a new Request for Proposal on Oct. 22 for the development of the former Crows Landing naval airbase into an industrial park. -- Irrigator file Photo
Stanislaus County officials released a new Request for Proposal on Oct. 22 for the development of the former Crows Landing naval airbase into an industrial park. -- Irrigator file Photo
Stanislaus County has restarted the process to develop the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station into an industrial park and it has tightened the guidelines for potential developers in the process.

The county released a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) to develop the airbase Oct. 22 after previous master developer Gerry Kamilos lost his contract with the county in late August because he failed to meet required deadlines in July.

A pre-conference with a Crows Landing air facility site visit is planned for Nov. 16. New proposals must be submitted by Feb. 1.

The new proposal process contains more safeguards for the county, to protect against future missteps with any master developer, county officials said.

“Everyone was pretty much in agreement,” said Jim DeMartini, Stanislaus County District 5 supervisor, whose district includes the West Side. “We want someone with experience in industrial development and who is financially stable. If we don’t get a decent proposal, we’ll continue to farm the land and try another time.”

DeMartini said he insisted that supervisors include provisions to ensure that any company that develops the airbase is financially viable, which he felt never happened with Kamilos.

Like the previous request issued in 2006, the new proposal request seeks an independent source of water for the community of Crows Landing as part of the deal and development of a general-aviation airport as part of an industrial park.

New provisions include a requirement that the master developer deposit $2 million with the county before any deal to pay for the Environmental Impact Report process. The money would be used exclusively for that process and would be drawn upon as the review moves forward.

In addition, the county will approve a master development agreement only when environmental studies have been completed.

Stanislaus County Assistant CEO Keith Boggs said the county is looking specifically at developing the 1,528 acres that make up the former airbase, not developing beyond that property as Kamilos had pitched

“This is a clean RFP and very structured and very straightforward,” Boggs said. “We’re hoping for choices.”

DeMartini said the board of supervisors is looking for stability in a development partner.

“You need financial strength, experience in industrial development and money up front for the EIR,” he said. “You have to meet the criteria. It’s the same rules for everybody.”

DeMartini said the board had learned from its mistakes in trying to develop the land.

There is no word yet on any early suitors. However, the proposal request was sent to a group of investors, including Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot Jr., that made an earlier proposal. Calls to Senior Vice President John Magness in the Los Angeles office of the Dallas-based Hillwood Development Co. were not returned this week.

Kamilos also did not return calls this week.

The board of supervisors voted 3-1 on Aug. 28 to terminate Kamilos’ developer contract for the Crows Landing Air Facility, because he missed a July 10 deadline to make a required $2.75 million deposit for project studies. That ended 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.

Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or

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November 01, 2012
We need to get away from the idea that an industrial park is the best use for this land. We don’t need more warehouses. We're not going to attract R&D or high tech companies because A) we don't have any local universities or talent base and B) R&D and high tech want a prestigious address, so let them stick to the bay area. What we really need is a sort of entertainment complex for the Westside that also attracts traffic from Interstate 5. I think a strong anchor tenant would be an Indian casino. Perhaps we could attract a tribe through a land swap, if state law allows this. Put in a high rise hotel, casino, and restaurants. With lots of neon lighting. Make it family oriented, so include a outlet center for shopping and maybe a waterpark for the kids. Include a 15,000 seat amphitheater for live entertainment and maybe an IMAX screen that shows films from the cockpit perspective of fighter jets. Play up the area’s strengths: Gateway to Yosemite, native American heritage and the Navy. Keep the airstrip and attract a regional carrier that fly’s to Yosemite or Laughlin, Nev. How about tethered balloon rides that rise 500 feet above the valley floor for spectacular views of the Sierra Nevadas?

Think of the jobs that all these concepts would entail. Hotel and restaurant. Retail. Aviation. Security and other aspects of support. Warehouses are just ugly boxes. Literally, we need to think outside the box.

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