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Calexico council approves development

March 08, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Wen-I Chang changed his mind.

The Burlingame-based developer allowed the City Council to consider final approval of his 231.8-acre Calexico International Center on Thursday without first signing a developer's agreement.

The council did so Thursday, approving his plans after a presentation from city consultant Brian Mooney of San Diego and a short public hearing.

The city's approval means Chang can attempt to get the county's permission to move forward with his plans to build a gas station, commercial space, hotels, a mobile home park, a golf course, apartments and condominiums on a huge swath of acreage at the southwest corner of Jasper Road and Highway 111. The triangle-shaped wedge of land is bordered by the Central Main canal on the south and west.

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Regarding the development agreement issue, Mooney told the council, "Chang said, ‘I'm not interested.' It's not an issue anymore. He wants to move forward."

During previous meetings, Chang had asked the council to hold off its final approval until a development agreement was worked out.

An agreement would have specified what percentage of the street improvements surrounding the Jasper Road-Highway 111 site would be paid by the city or Chang.

Without having to wait for that agreement to be negotiated, the city can send Chang's approved plans to the county Local Agency Formation Commission. It's possible LAFCO could have a hearing within 90 days and the land might be annexed into the city shortly thereafter.

Once annexed, Chang could start rounding up investors and moving forward with the first phase of his plans. He told the council that prospects look good.

"I've come back from Taiwan recently. I was recruiting money for the project. It was a very successful trip," Chang said.

The first phase of the project will involve construction of a gas station and commercial spaces along the highway and possibly a hotel close to the intersection. The plans are all tentative, depending on the partners Chang brings into the project.

If the first phase is a success, Chang will consider building the next two phases; which could include apartments, condominiums, a mobile home park and a nine-hole golf course.

Chang's vision is to have all three phases of the center complete by 2012.

If completed he hopes to create an internationally recognized business and tourism center for those traveling between the United States and Mexico. His staffers estimate the fully operational and completed center would generate $7.5 million in revenue for the city over the 10-year period of construction.

Mooney said a lot of people are skeptical when they hear grandiose plans associated with new development projects.

"They want to know, ‘What's the assurance?'" he said.

Mooney held up a slim gray packet.

"This plan will guide the development. I'm impressed with the work his consultants have done," Mooney said.

Chang thanked city staffers for all of their work.

"I've been blessed by the support of the city staff," he said.

Chang singled out city Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa for praise.

"He's been almost in the same boat with me. Everyone has pounded on him," Chang said, laughing.

After the laughter died, Chang said the center would be a first-class development, "Quality has been my label."

Chang has developed the Brawley Inn and a Hilton hotel in Gilroy, among other projects.

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

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