LAFCO approves annexing farmland for development

May 24, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Hundreds of acres of farmland should be annexed into this city soon now that the Local Agency Formation Commission has approved plans for Burlingame-based developer Wen-I Chang's Calexico International Center and plans for new homes, an RV/mobile home park and an industrial center by the Bravo Partners and Rodiles Family.

The commission voted unanimously Thursday morning to approve the annexations after conducting separate public hearings.

The first project discussed was the Calexico International Center.

Chang, who built the Brawley Inn, has proposed building a hotel, commercial space, an RV park, apartments and maybe even a golf course on 231 acres of farmland at the southwest corner of Jasper Road and Highway 111.

According to LAFCO's fiscal analysis, the project would create a cumulative deficit for the county of $190,000. Since LAFCO will not approve a project if the county would suffer a loss, conditions were placed on annexation.


According to the text of the report written by LAFCO Executive Officer Jurg Heuberger, "The city and county, within 60 days of this approval, shall develop a program and enter into an agreement to provide a degree of revenue neutrality through compensation to the county for the ($190,000) deficit (from not collecting taxes on the land). The executive officer shall not record the annexation until a certified agreement is provided to LAFCO."

During discussion of the proposed international center, Commissioner Ed Snively asked Heuberger how the $190,000 shortfall would be addressed.

Heuberger said, "I'm hoping the city of Calexico would offer to pay it."

In lieu of that, Heuberger said there could be other financial mechanisms the county and the city could agree upon to make sure the project is "fiscally neutral" for the county.

Before the commission voted, commission Chairman Jack Dunham, an El Centro city councilman, asked representatives of the city and Chang to acknowledge they agreed to the conditions placed on annexation. City Manager Richard Inman spoke on behalf of the city and he said it agreed with the conditions.

Chang said, "Yes, I agree."

After the commission voted unanimously to approve annexation, Calexico Mayor John Renison thanked Heuberger and added, "All outstanding issues will be resolved."

Before Chang left the county Board of Supervisors' chambers, he addressed the media.

He said, "When I came to Calexico in 1992 I saw a lot of colors: brown color, green color. At the same time I saw something that the eye cannot see, a bubbling of energy."

Chang said the energy he noticed was exemplified by the hard work Renison specifically and Chang's business partners put into the project. He vowed that his international center would set the example for county developments.

The second projects discussed were plans of the Bravo Partners and Rodiles family. The partners plan to build homes, an RV/mobile home park and an industrial park near the intersection of Bowker Road and Highway 98. The Rodiles family plans to build homes, apartments and spaces for commercial development at the corner of Cole and Bowker roads.

Heuberger told the commission his recommendation for approval of the projects was, again, contingent on the condition that annexation would not create a monetary loss for the county.

In the case of the Bravo-Rodiles projects, Heuberger said the county could face a deficit of $291,400 from loss of taxable property while the city would be out $1.056 million because tax revenues from the project will fall below costs of city services to the area.

To cover those deficits, Heuberger said a special assessment district would be created, although he noted no one has yet "formerly submitted the request" to create such a district.

Dunham said he was aware there had been some "heartburn" from the projects because the Bravo Partners and the Rodiles Family did not pay for a full environmental review.

Earlier this year, the Calexico City Council voted to approve the projects by declaring that all environmental impacts associated with construction had been properly mitigated. The council did so after the landowners sued the city after it had first tried to force the landowners to pay for a $200,000 environmental review.

Dunham asked Heuberger if it was too late for the commission to do something about the council's decision.

"I understand it's out of our hands," he said.

Heuberger said the commission had 30 days to file a legal challenge after the council made its decision. Heuberger said 30 days had passed but, he said, "That is not to say the commission could not still take action."

He said the commission could declare that the mitigation measures proposed by the Bravo Partners and the Rodiles family were inadequate.

During discussion of the mitigation measures, Commissioner Hank Kuiper, District 2 county supervisor, asked "Weren't the hoops that they had to jump through enough?"

He said it looked like a lot of work had been put into the planning of the projects.

Snively said despite the work put into it, "The document doesn't do what an (environmental review) would."

Commissioner Tony Tirado, District 1 county supervisor, said Calexico needs to consider allowing future commercial development along Highway 98 because he thinks the industrial complex proposed by the Bravo Partners will be a success.

Tirado then asked Calexico Public Works Director Mariano Martinez how the city has prepared for future growth. Martinez said the city has enough water and sewer capacity for a population of 60,000.

After the discussion, the commission voted unanimously to approve the project.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles