Campus Land Sale Faces Another Delay

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ASU’s hoped-for Payson campus just hit another jarring bump on its long, potholed road.

The Gila County Board of Supervisors has removed the land sale from its Dec. 6 agenda.

“I will remove this item from the Board of Supervisors Agenda of Dec. 6 and place it on the next available agenda after the County and SLE have completed our discussions,” wrote Don McDaniel, county manager for Gila County in an e-mail to Mayor Kenny Evans.

The county and the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE had hoped to wrap up negotiations on the land sale by mid-December. With this recent move, all that has changed.

Complications center on the Gila Community College board’s questions regarding the sale of land the county has been holding in trust for GCC.

The GCC board has no legal authority over the land or the sale, but asked the county to get an additional appraisal, make sure the land served an educational purpose and included a clause that would require the SLE to give GCC first refusal if the Alliance resold the land.

Already, the county has modified its appraisal — boosting the price from $500,000 to $600,000.

McDaniel in an e-mail to Evans wrote, “We have received a modified appraisal which now includes an addenda discussing the hypothetical and fully supportable market value of $600,000 rather than $500,000.

“This is based upon the assumption that the one acre parcel owned by the Town is sold to the SLE so that the 20.863 acre parcel is not divided. The 63-page appraisal is available to you upon request.”

In a reply, Evans wrote, “with all the commotion raised by the GCC Board, we have been moving cautiously. In visiting with Mike Vogel, Chairman of the RCEA SLE, we are anxious to move forward and believe your document and Final Draft are good and acceptable bases for that action. 

“The open meeting law prevents us from polling the SLE members, but there appears to be strong support for moving forward as per this e-mail from you and this is agendized for their (SLE) next meeting on Dec. 9. 

“At that point they will also appoint a couple of SLE board members to work out the final details with you.”

County officials said the independent appraiser recalculated the value of the land after the county realized that Payson’s sale of an acre in the middle of the parcel could affect the overall value. The Payson council recently approved the sale of the land to the Alliance for about $50,000 — although the town paid about $130,000 for the one-acre parcel as a way to subsidize GCC some years ago.

The appraiser had reduced the value of the 20 acres the county was selling because the one-acre chunk of land in the middle limited its development potential. But if the Alliance owned both the town’s one acre and the county’s 20 acres, it would make the whole chunk more valuable, say county officials.

The latest flurry of negotiations about the land sale comes as negotiations between the Alliance and ASU move to the end game.

Several weeks ago, the GCC board passed a resolution supporting the sale, but requested several conditions in addition to a new appraisal.

One of those conditions centered on trying to make sure that an expanded GCC campus did not wind up next door to a research park or some other industrial use. The county recently gave GCC more than 30 acres it had held in trust, which adjoins the 20 acres the Alliance wants to buy.

The Alliance has said it only needs about 10 acres for the 1,000-student phase one of a campus that would eventually accommodate 6,000 students. The additional phases of the campus would be built on the other side of the highway on a 260-acre parcel now owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Alliance had agreed to buy the 20-acre county parcel to keep from chopping it up into small, unusable pieces. It sits next to another 67-acre parcel of private land the Alliance has an option to buy. The Alliance’s plan calls for a 10-acre campus next to GCC along the extension of Graham Ranch Road.

Spin-off uses such as a research park on the remaining county and private land could be built, although the parcel includes several acres of unbuildable hillside.

The GCC board didn’t want to end up expanding onto its new 30 acres of land only to find itself next door to some industrial complex.

GCC’s resolution called on the county to ensure the land it sold to the Alliance served an “educational purpose” and was consistent with uses on the 30-acre GCC campus.

The GCC resolution didn’t detail whether that objection would apply even to land on the other side of the proposed university campus, not adjacent to GCC’s land. Currently, GCC’s classrooms occupy about five of the 30 acres it now owns.

The Alliance didn’t provide a site plan for the proposed building next to the campus showing where on the 20-acre parcel it would build dorms and classrooms.

The GCC board also asked for first right of refusal in the event that the Alliance ultimately resells any portion of the 20 acres it now wants to buy from the county.

The detailed negotiations will now apparently take place after Dec. 9, with the sales agreement returning to the supervisors after both sides reach agreement.

Earlier this month, Evans had said the Alliance and ASU hoped to finish work on their agreement and seek the approval of the Arizona Board of Regents this month.

County officials noted that once both sides strike an agreement, the county could sell the land almost immediately through the use of a quit claim deed.

“It may take a little longer than I want it, but we’re still on course,” said McDaniel.

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