Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006 • County expects 2-3 qualified bids for Herlong development

Two developers attended a pre-bid conference for surplus Army property in Herlong.

“Apparently there were a handful of potential bidders,” County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen told the Lassen County Board of Supervisors at its Nov. 28 meeting.

The two bidders who attended the late-October pre-bid conference “addressed different aspects of the proposal, some on the property relating to the residential uses, some on the industrial.”

Staff indicated others have shown an interest in developing the property on surplus portions of Sierra Army Depot. County officials and those at Sierra and the new federal prison in Herlong agree there is a need for new housing to accommodate employees at the prison, the 600 existing employees at the base and the 250 employees Lt. Col Brian Butler said Sierra expects to hire in the next two years.

Friday, Dec. 15 is the opening date for developers to bid on the property the county acquired through the Base Realignment and Closure Process.

The county’s negotiations with the only respondent to the first request for proposals issued on Nov. 8, 2004, Bay Area developer Scenic Mountain Development LLC, ended in June without a contract. County officials never disclosed why the negotiations produced no agreement.

Scenic Mountain announced plans in February 2005 to invest $15 million to build Sierra Meadows Village in Herlong.

The Sierra Meadows project included housing, offices, stores and light industrial buildings. Scenic Mountain Development announced plans for small condos slated to sell for just $60,000, and the most expensive single-family home under $180,000. They also announced plans to plant thousands of trees and shrubs and construct a 20-acre park.

They said homes constructed with structural insulated panels would be almost completely fireproof and survive earthquakes and heavy winds.

The project included 565 residential and 265 business units, 70 retail storefronts, professional offices and a light industrial complex for business startups in 48 roll-up door bays.

When negotiations ended, the county issued a new request for proposals and on Nov. 28, Ketelsen asked the board members if they wanted to extend the deadline for proposals, issue a third RFP, hire a firm to generate more interest in the property or offer some kind of compensation to the real estate industry generally to attract new bidders who want to develop the property.

District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson said he was “somewhat ambivalent on whether we extend it or not.”

Hanson said, “Obviously we want to do what’s best for the community and we want to get the best project we can. We want to make sure that we get enough interest, proper circulation and a proper amount of time for those that are responding.”

Hanson said he was fairly certain the county will get two qualified bids out of the two organizations that attended the pre-bid meeting in response to the county’s request for proposals.

“There are a couple (others) that had indicated that they are going to submit a bid under the RFQ process that did not attend the meeting for various reasons,” he said. “Time is of the essence, but, at the same time, we don’t want to be in such a hurry that we miss an opportunity.”

The board may reject all bids and readvertise the RFQ for the third time. County planners could also identify one of the bidders with whom to negotiate individually. It could also extend the Dec. 15 bid deadline by 30 days, Hanson said.

Assistant Community Development Director Joe Bertotti said the county is unlikely to receive any more bids. Bertotti said county staff sent out 50 RFQs, about half to companies that requested them or to people in real estate who are not land developers.

The other half were sent to civil engineering firms, development firms and real estate firms actively involved in development. Bertotti said four of those who received the RFQ are serious about the project. A dozen simply thanked him for sending it or said they would get right on it.

“But there are four … who are asking a lot of questions, asking the right questions, doing the due diligence that we recognize would be necessary to create a proposal,” he said, adding he anticipates “probably three proposals.”

Though some said they could use a little more time, none have requested an extension of the deadline. The board took no action, thus leaving the Friday deadline in place.