Boyer: We have not performed

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By Jennifer Garcia

E-mails have been sent, comments have been submitted and the public has made phone calls to council regarding options for the Trinity Site development, in hopes that council would reach a decision about the project.

However, after four hours of discussion at the special council session held Thursday night, councilors still have not reached a decision.

Residents had about three weeks to submit comments to councilors and let them know which of the three choices they would like council to move forward with. The three options are:

•    Path 1: Negotiate with Boyer without executing a development agreement; Begin testing the market for other opportunities;

•    Path 2: Sign a development agreement with Boyer (if Boyer doesn’t agree, proceed to Path 3)

•    Path 3: Discontinue negotiations with Boyer; issue a new RFP document to select a new developer

Interested residents packed council chambers and some made their feelings known to council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Wade Williams from The Boyer Company was also at the meeting and he spoke to council once again and answered their questions regarding Boyer’s intentions and the path forward.

Though their opinions on big box stores varied, the majority of residents agree that retail is desperately needed in Los Alamos.

“I get tired of having to drive to Santa Fe for a button or a zipper, because I sew,” Martha Hutchins said.

Richard Hanneman, on the other hand, said he believes that big box stores are nothing more than general stores on steroids. “Option 3 is the only realistic thing to do at this juncture. Los Alamos is not an urb/burb,” he said.

Mark Steinzig said he felt that Path 2 seems to be the best option. “This may be one of our last chances to develop retail downtown. Let’s not get too impatient,” he commented.

Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Director Kevin Holsapple presented council with recommendations on behalf of the Trinity RFP Committee. According to the letter, the committee serves as an ad hoc sounding board and advisory group to county staff for matters related to The Boyer Company’s proposed development of Trinity Place within the context of the Trinity Site Revitalization Project.

The committee offered the following recommendations:

•    Reaffirm and sustain the originating objectives for the Trinity Site Project.

•    Make the site ready for construction by June 2010 with the expeditious transfer of functions, comprehensive vacating of buildings and consequent demolition

•    Accept the reality of the current economic recession and its impacts on reaching mutually acceptable agreements and conditions with a developer. Until the site is construction ready, exercise patience during the economic recovery to improve developer options and better pricing.

•    Remain open to continued negotiations with Boyer while the site is being made construction ready to improve and achieve mutually beneficial agreements and terms and to reintroduce practical elements of a lifestyle center as portrayed in earlier designs and as consistent with the development framework of the Downtown Master Plan.

“You’d not want to turn your back on a continued proposal from Boyer,” Holsapple said. “We’re also recommending that you’re open to any constructive proposal including those from Boyer,” he said.

However, not all the committee members agreed with the recommendations. George Chandler did not sign the letter from the committee to council. Instead, he made a brief presentation at the meeting during which he defended his position.

Chandler charged that Boyer never seriously pursued any arrangement other than a big box with satellite stores and that Boyer never seriously pursued any big box other than Smith’s. In addition, he further charged that Williams, who previously worked for Smith’s, said he would “always give Smith’s first shot at any development project.” He also said “Smith’s apparently took advantage of Boyer’s commitment to string along the project, always appearing on the verge of an agreement but never quite making it, until suddenly it became possible for them to purchase the Mari-Mac shopping center at a very low price.”

Williams denied Chandler’s accusations. “I haven’t developed a single Smith’s store since I left six years ago,” Williams said. “None of the projects that I’ve developed are the same. There is no formula.” He went on to say that progress on the development has not been made because of construction costs, the slope of the land and the cost of the land, among other reasons.

Councilor Robert Gibson said that none of the reasons that Williams gave have really changed. Instead, he said those reasons mentioned were factors when Boyer took on the project. “All these circumstances were here,” Gibson pointed out.

Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro said one of the concerns that arose centered on the fact that an anchor may want to own the land their store is on. In an effort to make this possible, Mortillaro said he and Williams have been discussing a possible land transfer between the county and the school district that would help  do this. “Boyer proposes a swap of Mari-Mac for the Trinity Site, which would require a lot of due diligence,” Mortillaro said.

Williams told council that he remains committed to this development. “I really want to see this done because of the quality of the community,” he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and work together to see if we can come up with a plan. If not, we’ll step aside. We’ve not performed. We’re disappointed,” he added.

Councilor Nona Bowman asked Williams if he’s prepared to develop the site as he originally intended. She showed him a one of the first renderings of the site, in which it showed a huge lifestyle center. She then showed him a more recent rendering in which the site appeared smaller. “Will you develop this as a lifestyle center or a strip mall?” Bowman asked.

After examining the drawings, Williams said it was the same project. “You took out all the nice things,” Bowman said of the more recent drawing. She then asked how long Williams thought it would take to get the project underway. “We’ll be on the timetable of the anchor tenant,” he responded. “I want to get this done fast, but in all honesty, I don’t know.”

Councilor Sharon Stover said that trust in doing business with someone is key. “My trust is waning,” she told Williams. She then asked Williams to give her some reassurance that The Boyer Company will be able to make the development happen. “I can’t give you assurance that we can perform. Things are too tumultuous right now,” he responded.

Councilor Ralph Phelps also expressed his disappointment in the project so far. “The critical factors are trust, teamwork and partnership. I’m disappointed with the current level of commitment from Boyer. I would not support any of the three options at this point,” he said.

“We should stick with the original vision and goals,” Council Chair Michael Wheeler said. “I believe this development does need a time schedule. June of 2010 is an appropriate target to have some deal underway,” he said.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle reiterated what he said at the July 23 meeting. “I’m in favor of a big box store. A big box store and nothing else would be a step forward for our community,” he said. “I have deep reservations about the three options, which would all lead to the termination of negotiations with Boyer.”

Council did not reach a decision on the matter but instead recessed the meeting until Sept. 8, at which point the subject will be discussed once more.