Consultant hired for White Rock A-19 master plan

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By Kirsten Laskey

After failed attempts to sell a 60-acre parcel of land identified as A-19 in White Rock to a developer, Los Alamos County staff recommended the creation of a Comprehensive Master Plan for the property. In response, the county council approved hiring consultant team, Dekker, Perich, Sabatini Inc., for $316,105 during its regular meeting Tuesday.
Council also agreed to applicable gross receipts tax and a $20,000 additional services contingency for crafting the plan.
Steve Brugger, Housing and Special Projects manager, said the master plan will propose a commercial project to be built on A-19, adjacent to Fire Station 3.
The Department of Energy turned over ownership of the parcel to the county, and it was subsequently divided it into three tracts. Five acres were dedicated to the fire station, another tract will be the future location of the White Rock Visitor Center and the remaining 60 acres will be the focus of the master plan.
The plan will study the possibly of installing infrastructure in the parcel, subdividing it into smaller pieces and then marketing those parcels to developers. The county is betting that the cost of the master plan as well as development costs will be recovered in the sale of the land.
The council has attempted twice to sell the property to a developer. County Administrator Tony Mortillaro said there is currently a letter of intent on the property but the developer has not been able to fulfill all its obligations. The developer has not responded to the county’s suggestion to turn the letter of intent into a purchase option.
To develop the parcel and help further create a focal point for the designated town center included in the White Rock Master Plan, in 2009 council approved hiring a consultant to prepare a master plan for the parcel, but held off due to the developer’s letter of intent. Now that it appears the developer is unable to move forward with the land deal, councilors moved ahead with their selection of a firm to work on the master plan for the parcel at Tuesday’s meeting.
Going with a master plan, Brugger told the Monitor, is the best option because “most simply, what this does is it will subdivide that 60 acres into smaller tracts with the main infrastructure…it’s a lot easier for a builder to come and buy on a smaller piece with some of the infrastructure than buying a whole lot of land with infrastructure.”
It’s easier to get financing for a smaller tract from a bank than it is for a larger tract with no infrastructure, he said.
Dekker, Perich, Sabatini were recommended, Brugger said, because they fulfill the requirements being sought – they had to be competent in master plan submittals, experienced in development and knowledgeable of requirements of commercial and residential users.
“This team stacked up real well,” he said. “We know that this team will be successful.”
Since the county still has a letter of intent with a developer, Councilor Robert Gibson asked if there would be any risk by assuming that developer won’t take action.
County Attorney Randy Autio said he was not involved in that negotiation but from his understanding, the developer had failed to follow the agreement so the county is in a firm legal position.
Vice Chair Sharon Stover asked if any issues would arise because the county received and still has in its possession that developer’s $10,000 deposit.
Again, Autio said that he had not read the agreement but that the consultants were only performing a study and no affirmative action is being taken to remove that developer.
The motion passed five to one, with Councilor Vincent Chiravalle opposed. Chairperson Mike Wismer was absent.
Chiravalle said he feared that if, in essence, the county becomes the developer, it would make choices that might preclude further retail development, preferring instead that the council leave those decisions to a private developer.