The land on West Schulte Road between Lammers and Hansen roads has been the object of debate since the federal government provisionally deeded it to the city in 1998.
When the city took possession of the property to block development of an immigration detention facility, it was given clear use of 50 acres. The federal government restricted the remaining 150 acres to recreation, educational or public benefit uses only.
At the regular meeting of the council Tuesday, council members considered whether to pay $1.6 million to the U.S. General Services Administration to lift the use restrictions or pay nothing and maintain the status quo that has existed for 14 years.
City Manager Leon Churchill recommended that the council spend the money, which would let the city pursue a wider variety of options, including a private partnership to develop the land.
Councilman Charles Manne asked about $3.2 million dollars the city has spent on the land since 1998. Andrew Malik, director of development services, replied that a majority of the money was spent on environmental studies.
“We had two (environmental impact reports) on two major projects, with some of the cleanup of the property, as well,” Malik said, referring to separate previous efforts to establish youth sports fields and a solar farm there.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel was at first in favor of taking Churchill’s recommendation to allow the city to take advantage of private partnerships.
“The Schulte Road property has become a white elephant,” Maciel said. “While it’s very tempting to look at that $1.6 million and put it into the many worthy projects before us, I think it’s worthwhile in the long run to rid ourselves of the government restrictions.”
Mayor Brent Ives argued that the money was better not spent, because the city has no plan or prospective partner to develop the land.
“I would not mind going ahead and acquiring the property if I saw some glimmer of hope for (a return on investment) out there,” Ives said. “Right now, I can’t see putting more money into that property.”
Rickman agreed with the mayor’s assessment.
“We haven’t heard any investment or any opportunities,” Rickman said. “That’s money we can use in the community today and make a difference in the community for the residents of Tracy.”
At the end of the conversation, Rickman made a motion for the city staff to continue negotiating with the GSA to preserve the land as it is. Manne seconded the motion, and all five members of the council voted yes.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or email@example.com.