Council pulls the plug on Boyer Co.

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Not enough progress after three years of negotiations is reason cited

By Roger Snodgrass

Los Alamos County split the blanket with its reluctant developer, the Boyer Company. More than three years after a sole-source contract was signed and a year after an agreement was due, the governing body voted 6-1 to discontinue exclusive negotiations with the company for redeveloping the Trinity Site.

Only Councilor Vincent Chiravalle tried to hold the relationship together, arguing that the vote to sever the special ties would kill any hope of bringing a big-box store to the hill “for many years to come.”

The council’s response was framed by a unanimous recommendation from an ad hoc advisory group, known as the RFP Committee that has played a key role in the process since the earliest phases.

Committee member Jan van Prooyen, reminded council that the committee had advised the committee to “stay the course” six weeks ago. At that time, only committee member George Chandler dissented, he said, but now the committee agreed unanimously with Chandler that the evident lack of progress influenced the group’s recommendation that the council look at other mechanisms for the project.

“We need somebody who can move the project and it’s not Boyer,” Chandler said.

Chiravalle made the point that Boyer had now provided the first signed letter of intent for the project.

“This was signed by a vice president of a potential anchor store,” he said. “This represents to me substantial progress.”

Chandler responded, “That letter constitutes regress. It’s a letter of intent that takes us back to where we were before we got started.”

Wade Williams of the Boyer Company said he was surprised that the committee had changed its mind in six weeks. He said the letter of intent was significant.

“Regional malls are built on such letters,” he said.

He reminded the council that his company had already made a considerable investment in the project including the campaign support for the passage of the referendum that approved the Trinity Site project.

Councilor Ralph Phelps offered a conceptual basis for an alternative approach, saying his position had changed since late spring, when Boyer was given a strong message about making progress. But, he said, “To date, they have been unresponsive.”

Councilor Gibson was prepared to translate Phelps ideas and other input into a motion, saying, “We have stayed the course beyond the intended time. “

Gibson’s motion, seconded by Phielps as approved included the following five provisions:

1) Council affirms its objective of bringing a substantial increase in competitive retail opportunities to Los Alamos; 2) The County immediately discontinue exclusive negotiations with the Boyer Company for the redevelopment of the Trinity Site; 3) Council directs staff to explore with interested and capable parties, including Boyer Company, further interest in developing a lifestyle center or other retail opportunities on Trinity Site.  Staff may propose to employ an agent to assist this endeavor.  Staff should consider broadening community involvement in its advisory committee; 4) Council directs staff to initiate discussions with the owner of Mari-Mac Shopping Center about coordination of plans for it with those for Trinity Site; and 5) Council expects any proposal to develop the Trinity Site to be economically viable on its own, not requiring taxpayer subsidy unless part of an economically beneficial public-private partnership, and to maintain or improve retail market competitiveness in Los Alamos County.

The vote was 6-1 with Chiravalle voting no.

After the vote, Williams quickly left Council Chambers.