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New airport or mall for Calexico?

April 08, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The City Council here, seated as the city Redevelopment Agency board, could vote Tuesday night to give Los Angeles-based developer Arman Gabay exclusive negotiating rights to 32 acres of city-owned land south of the Calexico International Airport.

If the Gabay family's limited liability corporation, M&A Gabaee, ends up buying the land, it could build a huge shopping mall stretching from the downtown Port of Entry up to and including the 32 acres south of the airport. The mall could be called Paseo Grand Plaza, according to conceptual plans Gabay has had drawn up.

To buy the plots not owned by the city, Gabay has asked for a multimillion-dollar loan from the RDA.

The RDA board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 608 Heber Ave.

In 1998, Gabay's family entered into a similar "exclusive negotiating rights" agreement with Seaside, a city of 30,000 just south of Monterey.

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According to minutes from Seaside's RDA meeting that are posted on the Web, &Resolved; that an exclusive negotiating rights agreement between the Redevelopment Agency of the city of Seaside and M&A Gabaee, a California limited partnership developer, regarding retail development at Broadway and Fremont Boulevard be approved."

The motion passed by a 4-1 vote. At that same meeting the Seaside RDA approved a second agreement for a triangular parcel of land nearby.

Contacted this morning, a staffer at Seaside City Hall said the property is still owned by the city and there has been no development since the agreement had been brokered.

Meanwhile, the 32 acres south of the airport were purchased by the city for airport use in 1984 with Federal Aviation Administration funds.

According to City Manager Richard Inman, "There are contingencies attached to this property that will need to be addressed during these negotiations, since the land was purchased initially with Federal Aviation Administration funds, which would need to be reimbursed if the property were sold for non-airport related purposes."

Plus, if it is sold, Airport Manager Luis Estrada will have to rework his plans for airport expansion.

Contacted this morning, Estrada said, "It's going to create problems trying to get my master plan approved and we're going to have to make some changes."

According to Estrada's master plan being circulated right now by the city Planning Department — also paid for with FAA funds — the airport would use half of the 32 acres to build a new terminal.

While that wouldn't happen if Gabay buys the land for a mall, Estrada said it's possible Gabay and the airport could work together to see if elements of Gabay's plan could be tweaked or adapted to coordinate with some sort of airport expansion.

The bottom line though, Estrada said, is, "The land belongs to the city, to the airport. I wouldn't hold up the city or development. We need the sales tax."

In other business during Tuesday's RDA meeting, planning consultant Brian Mooney of San Diego will try again to present his plans for revitalization of the city's downtown. The first time Mooney addressed the RDA board his presentation was cut short after the board objected to the format Mooney employed.

During the meeting, Mooney asked the board members questions when they said they were expecting a standard presentation.

The board also will discuss the "payment or non-payment of annexation fees for property owned by Steve Scaroni," according to Tuesday's agenda.

According to Inman, "The issue seems to center around whether or not the RDA paid the annexation fees for the property owned by Mr. Scaroni at the time of annexation. In discussing this with staff it appears that the annexation fees were somehow deferred with the expectation that either Mr. Scaroni would pay these fees at a later date. … There is no evidence as of this writing that the RDA made any payment of fees and Urban Futures (of Orange) confirmed that no fees were ever paid by the RDA."

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

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