Open BC land development site still tied up in legalities

Martin Chang
September 22, 2010
Filed under News

The Kern Community College District owns two properties that will not be built on for an estimated 10 to 15 years.

According to Tom Burke, the CFO of KCCD, and Rick Wright, the Interim Director of Facility Planning and Compliance at KCCD, the two properties will not be built on until the Williamson Act expires. Burke predicts this will take 15 years, while Wright predicts it will take at least 10 years.

The State of California Department of Conservation states, “The Williamson Act enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural use. In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are much lower than normal.”

In other words, in the past, the land that KCCD bought was designated to be used for agricultural purposes only.

In 2007, KCCD bought two plots of land from Bolthouse Properties. One is 126 acres on Bear Mountain Boulevard, which was purchased for $3.6 million and another, on Kratzmeyer Road, was purchased for $12.275 million. There were plans to build education centers on both plots. These centers were to focus on automotive, manufacturing and maintenance education. There were other plans to have commercial and internship programs.

According to a 2007 article written in The Rip, the Bakersfield College president at the time, William Andrews, stated, “Right now, we’re looking at every aspect to make sure that this project makes sense to us and be proactive and look far enough down the road and be prepared. We want to be ready when the population gets there.”

Also in 2007, Anthony Leggio, then president of Bolthouse Properties, stated “We are confident that our partnership with Bakersfield College and the Kern Community College District will result in significant benefit to Kern County residents.”

At the time, neither Andrews nor Leggio mentioned the conflict with the Williamson Act.

According to Burke, KCCD still has contracts with Bolthouse Properties. He said that the district is in agreement with Bolthouse to share revenue that Bolthouse earns on the agricultural land that is still on the two properties and that the education centers are still planned.

Burke states that another reason for the lack of development on the land is the “slowdown of growth” in the area. He said that this slowdown has “stretched the timeline further.”

KCCD could buy out of the Williamson Act but has not. Burke claims that it is too expensive, especially when the financial troubles of the district are taken into consideration.

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