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Another thumbs down on truck parking proposal

October 17, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The City Council again denied the owner of 7 acres just west of the downtown Port of Entry a permit to build a truck lot on his land.

This is welcome news for residents and merchants who have publicly expressed concerns about more truck traffic near the downtown area but a blow for truckers who have asked the city for more truck lots.

This was the third straight week the council has tabled or rejected the landowner's application for the conditional-use permit.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison addressed the back and forth between the landowner and the city.

"It's getting old real quick," he said.

At Tuesday's meeting the council tabled the matter until it decides whether the city will partner with Los Angeles-based developers to build a huge shopping mall near the port that would include the 7 acres. The decision on the mall is expected in November.

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At Tuesday's meeting, City Treasurer Rudolfo Moreno and City Councilman Javier Alatorre called for the proposed agreement with the developer to be made public.

Even City Council members have not seen the proposed agreement, according to City Attorney Michael Rood.

"This is going to be a big project. Let the people know. Schedule a public hearing and inform the community," Alatorre said.

Rood told Moreno earlier in the meeting he would rule in the coming week whether the details of the agreement can be made public. Since the details involve real estate negotiations and city-owned property, the negotiations might be kept private.

The developers who proposed the agreement have said they don't want it made public because it could drive up prices on the parcels near the New River, which they don't yet own.

Ramon Lopez, the owner of 7 of the acres, said the city is helping the developers' negotiating leverage at the expense of Calexico landowners by not making the document public.

After Tuesday's meeting, Lopez and his real estate consultant, Marvin Mayne, talked about the council's decision.

Lopez, who said last week he was going to sue the city, said Tuesday he would consider selling the land to the developers if they pay him the money the land could make if he were allowed to build a truck lot.

Lopez asked the council to require the developers to at least pay his land payments while the negotiations between the city and the developers can be reviewed.

Lopez also amended his request for the conditional-use permit so it would expire in only 18 months — the time the developers said it would take to begin the mall construction in the best-case scenario.

His concession and request went ignored by the council even though the city Planning Commission has signed off on the conditional-use permit.

City Panning Director Ricardo Hinojosa said the council could revisit its 3-2 vote last week that denied the permit for the truck lot since Lopez had amended his original request.

Regarding the possibility of a huge shopping mall near the New River, Hinojosa said, "I don't know if that's a real project."

Bypassing usual procedural channels, the developers are attempting to secure a developer's agreement before they submit the construction plans to the Planning Department.

The developers, M&A Gabay of Los Angeles, don't own any of the land on which the shopping mall would be built.

According to a weeks-ago description of the development agreement by Armin Gabay, the city would put up 75 percent of the cost of the land — more than $3 million — so Gabay and his associates could buy the property.

Gabay said he would then line up prospective tenants for the mall, sell them plots and repay the city within 18 months.

The city would not make much interest on its $3 million since Gabay is asking for a low-interest loan.

At Tuesday's meeting, Gabay introduced the proposed mall's project manager, Sarah Magaña.

She asked the council for a continuance of the truck lot decision so the details of the development agreement could be worked out.

In response, Mayne took to the podium and asked the council to rule on the amended truck lot permit that night.

He said since there is no application for the mall project and formal agreement between the developers and Lopez concerning the sale of his land, the council should allow Lopez to "work his land a little bit."

After making a motion to table the issue until November, Mayor Victor Carrillo told Mayne the council has already denied the permit once and any reconsideration of that decision would only come after the city had fully weighed the merits of the shopping mall project.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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