Possible future uses of Corp Yard property not addressed by Council

September 14, 2012
Santa Paula City Council

If Crown Disposal successfully negotiates the purchase of the almost 10-acre parcel that formerly held the city’s wastewater treatment plant - known as Corporation Yard - it would start a process that could eventually end with a food digester operation and refuse transfer station.

The City Council approved formally opening property negotiations on the Corporation Road property with Crown at the September 4 meeting. Two Crown funded appraisals priced the parcel, located on the city’s Westside on Corporation Road, but recommended that the city hold onto the property until values rise.

Crown has offered the city $2.04 million for the “as-is” property, which the city staff report said would cost a minimum $1.1 million to clean up to bring it to a saleable condition. According to the staff report for the September 4 council meeting, Crown “initially” would be using the property for operations of their refuse service to Santa Paula; Crown bought the city’s solid waste enterprise a year ago.

But the Planning Commission received a more detailed report at its August 28 meeting when they approved the CUP for what would be the first phase, a storage/maintenance/operations facility. Planning staff as well as correspondence from Crown noted the second and third stages would be first a food digester, then a transfer station where trash would be brought, sorted for recyclables and then trucked off to the appropriate destination. 

There are several such transfer stations in Ventura County, including Del Norte Recycling/Transfer Station, a 16-plus acre site in Oxnard. The facility is owned by the city, which issued a $25 million bond for its construction and partners with a private trash company that processes up to up to 2,500 tons of solid waste a day.

Several speakers at the September 4 City Council meeting asked that council members not rush to sell the property - which also holds the Future Farmers of America animal farm - until more detailed examination of its potential could be addressed. 

Crown has made arrangements to retain the farm for the time being, but according to Jaime Fontes, city manager, the farm would eventually have to be moved due to not only the sale of but also to future road widening/construction in the industrial area. Crown is also discussing alternatives with the FFA, and vowed to help the youth group as much as possible so there would be no disruption to the program.

Former Mayor Mary Anne Krause was among the speakers who urged the council to examine the property sale more closely and not rush into negotiations. She noted the two appraisals had recommended that the property - a rare large, industrial parcel studied by the city in the past as part of the General and other plans - be held onto as property values continue to rise. 

Now, with the Planning Commission report noting the future plans for the property, Krause has even more concerns. The appraisals, she noted, were completed “more than a year ago... the city had a whole year to disclose they were working on it.” 

A Planning Commission action report was attached to the council’s September 4 meeting packet, but it just noted that the CUP had been granted Crown for the property’s initial use. Krause questioned why the Planning Department’s staff report and Crown’s letter regarding future plans for the parcel were not included in the council meeting packet. 

In fact, the property potentially housing a “digester” was alluded to only once at the meeting, during comments made by Councilman Jim Tovias. Later in the meeting the council agreed to form a subcommittee for a site visit with Crown representatives to a recycling operation in San Carlos, and one councilmember urged that they also talk to San Carlos city officials regarding the facility.  

Krause said, “If the council was truly going to be transparent they would have included the future plans” by at least mentioning the Planning Department’s staff report and Crown letter regarding potential use of the parcel, or by “attaching the report.... Because of the fact that information was not disclosed, you didn’t have basis to fully evaluate the value of the property.”

Any potential future plans for the property to be used for a food digester and/or recycling/transfer station would have to undergo Planning Commission, City Council, and environmental reviews.

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