Site selection narrows for new center: Brentwood CA Press, 10/5/07

By Karen Rarey

Three sites were recently brought before the Community Center Board (CCB) as options for the site of the new Discovery Bay Community Center, none of which came with a silver lining.

CCB members, who had put the site decision on a six-month hold, identified Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), eminent domain and distance as undesirable factors influencing which parcel site to recommend to the Community Services District Board of Directors for consideration.

“What we talked about recently was going back to the Sand Point parcel and looking at a couple of different options,” said David Piepho, president of both the CCB and the CSD.

“Legal gave the opinion that we shouldn’t go anywhere near (that parcel), because of the MTBE,” said CCB vice president Ray Tetreault.

According to Piepho, the levels of MTBE have been diminishing in recent tests.

“I think that our attorneys are feeling a little more comfortable,” he said. “There certainly will be some more questions about that.”

While town general manager Virgil Koehne agreed that new monitoring test wells had been placed on that particular site, he said that it would be weeks before any test results would be available.

“They just put in eight new monitoring wells, the state made the Hofmann Company (which owns the parcel) do that for a while,” said Koehne. Then he explained, “When I say a while – I don’t know how long – my guess is for two years or longer.” Samples were drawn last week only on those new wells, said Koehne. He added that getting results from the tests “generally takes a few weeks.”

“I believe there is some legalese that would basically hold us somewhat harmless (regarding the MTBE),” Piepho added.

Koehne agreed. “The state law says the person who caused that is the one that owns that … so we couldn’t have that liability on us, although the Hofmann Company would probably try to give that to us. We probably wouldn’t accept that.”

Tetreault’s concern was with entering a contract on a polluted property, regardless of who’s liable for it. “I’m not sure that’s fiscally responsible.”

Where the attorneys did seem to have an issue, said Piepho, was with the Discovery Bay Athletic Club site, which if selected by the CSD as a community center site would need to be taken by eminent domain.

“According to our attorneys, that is an option, but so is building a staircase to the moon,” said Piepho. “And I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek … that (eminent domain) is kind of a nasty thing to do.”

Tetreault agreed that taking the site by eminent domain could be a long process, “but in actuality it is one of the real reasons for eminent domain – I mean, we’re not buying the property so that we can put in a retail … it’s something actually for the public good.”

Koehne said there were pros and cons with going with one site over another.

“If you stay with the Hofmann Company, it will take us longer to build a building, because as I understand it, we have half a million dollars today … you’d have half the ownership to the land, but what you won’t have is the funding to build the building, so we would have to develop the time frame associated with that, either through some loans or wait until future development comes into Discovery Bay. And the earliest that I see that is either late 2008 or early 2009.”

“So you would have the property, but no building,” Koehne said. “Where if maybe if you did the eminent domain (process), you could get that sooner.”

Tetreault agreed. “That was the beauty of that property (the athletic club site),” he said. “We had something immediately, which then makes it much better for the community to say, “Here we got something and we don’t have this piece of land with nothing there.”

A third option, a site behind the Sand Point parcel, was also up for discussion at the meeting, but due to its distance from the people of Discovery Bay, it didn’t really excite the members of the five-person board.

I think once we commit to a parcel, we really need to get this thing built,” Piepho said. “This has been sitting out there for 10 years. And it’s been going back and forth because of different opportunities that we’ve had – some of those doors have shut; others have opened. Ironically, I think we have gone full circle and we are back to (the Hofmann Company-owned) Sand Point (parcel).”

All three sites are being forwarded to the Community Services District Board of Directors for a clarification of pros and cons and a final selection.

Brentwood CA Press: http://www.brentwoodpress.com