With changes in the bank, $131 million PSB-Hunt land deal just needs to close
by Sito Negron
Posted on August 13, 2008
The ice well-broken, the largest single Public Service Board land sale just needs a signature in September and it's done.
The sale of about 5,000 acres for $131 million is on track to close Sept. 29 after a compromise that first was made public a little more than a month ago. [july 8, 2008 npt background
Essentially, the changes approved by City Council Tuesday increased the number of residential units from 15,000 to 20,000, and the number of "mixed use" acres from 260 to 400. It would change the location of three "linear parks" that stretch east to west from the base of the mountain to the far edge of the community.
The changes also involved altering the designation of roads through the property.
In addition, the "phasing schedule" was changed, so that Hunt has less up front obligation to purchase the land and install infrastructure -- the sale is structured in three parts -- but El Paso Water Utility CEO Ed Archuleta said that there is an interest penalty that could end up netting the PSB another $15 million. The PSB operates the water utility.
"Congratulations," said City Manager Joyce Wilson, as the item passed unanimously. There was some applause.
A few moments later, as the meeting broke for recess and people mingled, Wilson said, tongue-in-cheek, to Hunt Communities LLC President Justin Chapman, "All right Justine, do you feel better now?"
One of the city consultants who helped develop the plan said, "I feel 20 pounds lighter." Deputy City Manager Pat Adauto laughed and said, "We all do."
Here are some background stories, arranged chronologically and in a bulleted list. Following the list are some other observations about the contract for the land sale.
-- High Bidder for 5,000 Northeast Acres: Hunt Communities, Aug. 3, 2007: "The high bidder for almost 5,000 acres of Public Service Board land in Northeast El Paso is Hunt Communities. The successful bid comes after an unprecedented process that will provide almost a generation’s worth of land north of Fort Bliss to a single purchaser."
-- Hunt Halts Land Sale; $131 Million Deal is Off, March 6, 2008: "Hunt issued a statement early Thursday, along with a letter notifying the PSB of its decision to withdraw its bid, which at more than $27,000 per acre was well ahead of the rival bidder. Reaction from the city was swift. Beyond the finger-pointing are questions of development quality, quantity, and need."
-- Starting Gun of a Northeast Land Rush, March 7, 2008: "A story from the archives, this one dated Nov. 27, 2006, sheds some light on the context of Northeast land development that has been highlighted by the recent withdrawal by Hunt Communities of its $131 million bid for PSB land. Of particular interest are comments regarding subdivision codes. Enjoy!"
-- "Smart Code" and Other Changes to Development Rules Approved; Next Step, Council, March 14, 2008: "The City Council wants pedestrian- and mass transit-friendly neighborhoods. But developers need rules that allow such neighborhoods, and the city is moving -- now quickly -- to adopt those rules."
-- $131 Million Hunt-PSB Land Sale Back On, May 6, 2008: "Council members suggested that Hunt was backing out because it had bid too much for the land, especially in light of the looming national recession driven by the crisis in home financing. But after the hot words, negotiations quietly resumed between the city and Hunt."
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