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Agreement with schools announced

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County, schools reach agreement on Trinity Site that will open way for demolition and development

By Roger Snodgrass

After years of closed-session negotiations, Los Alamos County Council announced that the basic terms of an agreement had been reached with Los Alamos Public Schools on a complex land partnership and exchange related to the Trinity Site Revitalization Project

After a final closed-session meeting Tuesday evening to discuss “the purchase, acquisition or disposal of real property,” the council agenda reserved its final piece of business for “possible discussion” of the draft documents on the development of Trinity Site.

As it turned out, the agreement was announced but there was very little discussion.

A “Summary of Material Terms of the Transaction Documents” was released that outlined the terms of the various leases and disposition of Trinity Site and Airport Basin properties.

More information and presumably more discussion will be in store.

A motion by Councilor Nona Bowman, seconded by Councilor Vincent Chiravalle, called for staff to finalize the documents for approval at a joint meeting of the council and school board on Nov. 12. The motion passed by a 5-2 vote with Councilor Robert Gibson and Councilor Ralph Phelps opposed, but without further comment.

In his remarks, Chiravalle noted that the county had received a significant revenue boost from the change in status of Los Alamos National Laboratory that made much of its budget subject to Gross Receipts Taxes, but that the schools had not receive an increase.

“In fact, revenue from the state is under attack,” he said.

The result of the agreement would be that the schools would own 90 percent of the land and the county about 8 percent, with no money exchanged until development takes place, he added. When there is income, it will be shared roughly 50-50, with the county’s share coming as compensation for leasing property to the schools at Airport Basin.

The county would be responsible for developing Trinity Site, a job for which it is more suitable than the schools, he said.

Chiravalle repeated once again his support of a “big-box” anchor for the development, as “a good thing that will give the schools more revenue,” and called on the public to see that the county makes good on that original intent and “is not going to switch the plan.”

“I’ll be watching and the public should be watching, too,” he said.

The vote to approve came without further discussion.

The announced agreement comes a two weeks after the council awarded a demolition contract that included clearing the Trinity Site property.

On Sept. 28, the council terminated its exclusive arrangement with the Boyer Co. for developing the property after more than two years of unsuccessful negotiations.

The Los Alamos Public School Board meets on Thursday with the Trinity project on its agenda.

“This concludes our negotiations,” Council Chairman Michael Wheeler said after the result. “Any further meetings will be held in the open.”

County-Schools agreement on Trinity Site and Airport Basin

According to the summary, the county would convey approximately 8.4 acres of the 9.7- acre Trinity Site. The county would retain about 1.3 acres. The school district would then combine that 8.4-acre property with an additional 5.6 acres it owns and lease nearly 14 acres on Trinity Drive to the county to be developed under a sublease.

In exchange, the schools will receive from the school district about 21.7 acres of unimproved land on DP road, along with another 3.2 acres on DP road after that parcel has been transferred from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The agreement also outlines a process by which the county will be able to demolish the school district buildings on the Trinity Site, including the two administrative buildings that will remain until the State Board of Finance has signed off on the transaction.

The county’s lease of the nearly 14 acres on Trinity Site will be for 70 years, for mixed uses, including subleases for commercial, retail and residential development.

For the lease, the county will pay $1-per-year rent until revenue is produced by the development.

As income is generated, the school district will split the revenue 52 percent to 48 percent for the county.

The county agreed to pay the full cost of demolishing the buildings, their own and the schools’ on the Trinity Site.

At the Airport Basin the county will lease to the schools will be for 40 years, with another 60 years of extensions as an option for the school district.

The schools will not have to pay rent until revenue has been generated, but their rent will be equal to their share of the revenue from Trinity Site, “so no money will need to change hands.”

In case no development takes place after 15 years, the school district would pay a fair market price for the Airport Basin properties, or the lease could be terminated without penalty.

The announced agreement comes a two weeks after the council awarded a demolition contract that included clearing the Trinity Site property.

On Sept. 28, the council terminated their exclusive arrangement with the Boyer Co. for developing the property after more than two years of unsuccessful negotiations.

The Los Alamos Public School Board meets on Thursday with the Trinity project on its agenda.