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Manteca buying 417 acres of farmland

Precursor to selling prime land by wastewater treatment plant

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Manteca buying 417 acres of farmland

The City of Manteca is buying 417 acres along Hays Road.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED June 18, 2011 2:56 a.m.

Manteca is spending $3.4 million to buy 417 acres deep in the rural farm country to the south of the city.

The purchase of the farmland at 23000 South Hays Road near the San Joaquin River roughly over a mile west of  the T-intersection of Airport Way and West Ripon Road  is being paid through sewer connection fees assessed on new development. It comes out to a purchase price of $7,529 per acre.

Acquisition of the land will enable the city to:

• create spray fields to pipe untreated agricultural waste water from Eckert’s for disposal.

• use those same spray fields to actively go after securing food processors that seek locations to expand near crop production in the San Joaquin Valley that by some estimates could add between 500 and 1,000 jobs.

• the relocation of spray fields plus the transporting of sewer sludge for drying to the Hays Road location will eliminate any traces of odors connected with the present wastewater treatment plant.

• to replace wetlands that are part of more than 100 acres of city-owned wastewater treatment property west of Costco and Big League Dreams to allow the land to be converted into prime commercial uses.

•create the first wetland mitigation bank in San Joaquin County working in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers that they can them sell easements to other jurisdictions in the county for the replacement of wetlands when needed within their communities.

•develop its own green waste composting facility.

•secure a site for a possible regional wastewater treatment plant 50 years or more into the future.

The seller of the 417 acres is ANF Development whose managers are Bill Filios and Art Nunes Jr.

The 20 acres immediately west of Costco where a 400-to 600-room Great Wolf Resort featuring an indoor water park and convention center is being proposed contains wetlands.

State law requires wetlands to be replaced if they are altered. Wetland mitigation banks have been established throughout the valley to accomplish that mandate. The closest to Manteca is one near Galt where it costs $132,000 an acre to obtain wetland mitigation credits.

Altogether, some 110 acres of land attached to the wastewater treatment plant site is being targeted for development as part of a family entertainment zone, The Stadium Retail Center anchored by Kohl’s as well as Big League Dreams complex are built on land that was once a part of the treatment plant. In addition, the city is planning a business park north of BLD on treatment plant land that are now used for spray fields.

Future wetlands

Some 50 acres of the 417-acre site being purchased by the city is considered ideal for an easy conversion into wetlands. That would mean for every acre of wetland that Manteca must compensate for, the city would save $124,500 per acre through the Hays site instead of accessing a wetland mitigation bank.

At the same time that same land west of Costco that is part of the wastewater treatment plant site is valued at $100,000 an acre even in today’s market due to its proximity to a major interchange, freeway frontage, and adjacent economic activity. By that measuring stick, Manteca would be earning a return of $92,500 per acre if and when they go to sell the land west of Costco. And on land that is actual wetlands, between savings for replacement wetlands and a potential sale at today’s prices, Manteca would come out $217,000 an acre ahead.

The city would need to build a pipeline for the wastewater treatment plant to divert agricultural wastewater from Eckert’s and other potential food processing plants to the proposed spray fields on Hays Road nearly three miles to the south.

The food processing strategy is a sharp departure from the last 30-plus years where the city avoided such operations like the plague since they gobbled up wastewater treatment plant capacity at the expense of being able to serve homes. And because they are seasonal in nature they don’t send waste water for treatment year round. Even so, the city could never commit the unused capacity during off season for other uses as it was reserved for Eckert’s.

The shift to land disposal via spray fields a few years back for Eckert’s changed all of that.

Agricultural water waste has nutrients in it that can play havoc with a treatment process balanced primarily for human waste. However those nutrients are conducive to growing many crops specifically grain crops used to feed livestock. Manteca has leased land at the wastewater treatment plan land disposal fields of treated wastewater and wastewater from Eckert’s for years to a farmer growing feed.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton said Manteca wouldn’t simply seek a food processor but instead would try to land those that are similar in the use of water as Eckert’s.

Pinkerton noted that San Joaquin County jurisdictions get inquiries from an average of three firms a year that want to locate processing operations in the valley near farm production.

“These are head of household jobs,” Pinkerton noted. “They can make it possible for households to buy homes by providing a second income.”

The council is scheduled to authorize the purchase at Tuesday’s meeting as a follow up to the deal approved June 7.

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