RIO VISTA — The recent lifting of a 61-year-old deed restriction paved the way for a closed session meeting Tuesday between city attorneys and California Vegetable Specialties.
The business, which is the largest American producer of endive, will be negotiating terms and price for the sale of the nearly 6 acres it has leased from the city since 1995.
City officials and others involved hope it’s the first of many such negotiations – leaving behind an era that left the city wringing its collective hands over what to do to make the area that used to be the old municipal airport lucrative.
“CVS has wanted to buy the land for a long time,” said the city’s former mayor, Jan Vick. She said that Rich Collins, the company’s president, approached the city several years ago. Vick worked for several years to get the deed restriction removed.
“There was a period of time that our former attorneys thought we could sell the land, but then we found out no,” she said. “We thought the deed restriction had expired, but no. It’s been a good three years since he approached (us).”
In a June 2011 Daily Republic article, Collins also expressed interest in purchasing the land, but acknowledged the deed restriction as the roadblock.
Collins was out of the state Friday and attempts to reach him were not successful.
The restriction was placed on the 99 acres that the city purchased from the state in 1952. The city was allowed to lease the land, but could not subdivide or sell the property. Subsequently, despite numerous city attempts to kick-start the area, it wasn’t all that attractive to businesses. It lay largely stagnant for decades, save for a few businesses that were willing to locate on and make improvements to leased land – provided they could get bank financing for improvements.
“One (company) had a very difficult time getting financing because it was leased land,” Vick said. “Banks don’t want to loan money to build buildings on leased land.”
Now that the albatross is lifted from the city, Mayor Norman Richardson is confident the land will be more attractive to businesses. He would like to see a parcel map drawn and the remaining property subdivided – a formalization that leads to marketing, he said.
“Now that we can work with it, we have the right to subdivide,” he said. “It’s a big step toward marketing the property (and) attracting tenants and buyers.”
Doug Finnegan, co-owner of Insight Designs, a metal fabrication company, wouldn’t mind seeing some neighbors in the business park. Insight Designs, like Collins’ company, is one of the original businesses that located into the park when long-term, below-market lease rates were created to entice businesses.
“Once the land is actually available, that will make a big difference in interested parties,” Finnegan said. “There is certainly a need to build a bigger overall business base. A balanced economy needs (various) types of businesses and this would be a good place for it.”
Richardson said nothing will happen overnight. But he said the step of removing the restriction was needed before moving forward.
“Rio Vista is in an interesting position – on the verge of not just growing but attracting business,” he said. “We have a lot of potential. We just need to get it out there and market it.”
Finnegan said he’s in the wait-and-see mode, preferring instead to defer comment until after he sees the “fine print.”
“We’re on the list of interested parties,” he said, adding that he was pleased the key barrier toward ownership was finally removed. “It’s possible the fine print makes it not such an attractive deal. If we own it, what kind of expectations are going to come with it?”
Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. Regular session at 6 p.m. The City Council chambers are located at One Main St.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.