Land conveyance tied to Trinity site project

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By Jennifer Garcia

The county introduces two public ordinances Tuesday night, putting two pieces of legal work in place to realize a major economic development project.


A closed meeting of the council will precede the regular public meeting at which the ordinances will be introduced without further discussion at that time.  


One ordinance transfers a small piece of county property to the public schools, which is needed to advance the complicated arrangements by which the Trinity Revitalization Project will be developed.


The other enables the county to execute a long-term lease with the schools for facilities that will be located at the Airport Basin.


Construction at the Airport Basin Site is on track, as buildings are being erected in anticipation of tenants making a final move in 2010.


Once the project is complete, it will house some of the county’s administrative offices as well as the administrative offices for the Los Alamos Public Schools.


The impeitus for this development is the Trinity Revitalization Project, a project that seeks to help revitalize the downtown area. Key to that is the Boyer Company.


And the county remains in negotiations with the Boyer Company, based out of Utah, for the Trinity Project, said Anthony Mortillaro, assistant county administrator.


Mortillaro said the talks are turning a corner and final negotiations are being made that will culminate with an introduction of an ordinance adopting the agreements at a future council meeting, with actual adoption and a public hearing shortly thereafter.


But the papers are not ready to be signed.


Mortillaro said during recent negotiations between the county and the developer, the anchor committee had a list of demands.


“We have had some issues with some of those demands,” he said. “We made a counter proposal with the developer and they’ll get back to the county in two weeks.”


He also pointed out that the developer’s response might not be the finalization to the negotiations that the county is looking for.


“They may have a counter to our counter,” Mortillaro said.


He also said if the attorneys from both sides support the agreements, they may be 99 percent through finalizing negotiations.


Either way, he said that the county needs to finalize the land conveyance agreements with the school district.


“There’s no reason to continue to hold on to this piece just because we don’t have the developer’s piece,” Mortillaro said.


Once the transactions are done, the school district will own 97 percent of the site. They currently own 36 percent of the land on the proposed site.


Mortillaro said that once the agreements with Boyer are signed, they will go to the state for review.


“They’re not approved until the state Board of Finance approves them,” he said. He also made clear that the school district’s sole relationship will be with the county, not the developer.


“The schools are the tenants of the county. Once we have a sublease with the developer, the land transactions have to be approved by ordinance,” Mortillaro said.


He said that three agreements with the developer have to be approved by council; they are the development, lease and options agreements.


While the Airport Basin construction moves along, other plans that will affect the school district are in the works.


The council will have a joint meeting with the school board in order to discuss the topic. The date of the meeting will be announced at later.


The introduction of ordinances will have no public discussion on Tuesday, however, there will be discussion on the topic at the Feb. 24 meeting.


Mortillaro said the county would sublease the land to the developers, who would then be responsible for constructing their own buildings.


“Boyer will do all the site work, roadways and parking. They’ll be responsible for getting their own funding,” he said. He also said that one of the possible retail anchors has gone through capital committees twice and they are still interested in building at the Trinity site.


Mortillaro declined to reveal whom the possible anchor might be.


Mortillaro said that with the agreements, he anticipates that there will be changes.


“I think we have a stationary target, but it could move again,” he said. “We’ve had to do what normally the private sector does so we can develop it (the site) for the betterment of the community.”


The site plans still have to be reviewed and approved by Planning and Zoning.


The public will be able to vice their concerns over the site plans at the Feb. 24 council meeting. Mortillaro said staff will post documents detailing the progress of the site plans to the county and school websites by Feb. 11.


“Improvements have been made to the documents, but the context hasn’t changed that much,” he said.


The Trinity Revitalization Project was thought up as a way to revitalize the downtown area.


Plans for the project – in the 800 and 900 blocks of Trinity Drive – include two retail anchor stores, in addition to other retailers, condos that will be located where the school district’s administrative buildings are now and landscaping and beautification of the area, to include revamping the sidewalks and making the streets safer for traffic traveling along Trinity.


The school board plans to hold a final public hearing on Feb. 10.