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No schools for Tesoro or Union Ranch?

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POSTED October 5, 2013 12:58 a.m.

A Manteca developer is interested in acquiring two vacant sites owned by the Manteca Unified School District.

In exchange for the 8-acre and 9-acre district properties, the developer is willing to trade one contiguous 17-acre piece of land.

The two undeveloped school sites are the Union Ranch in the residential subdivision on the east side of the road from Woodbridge at Del Webb, and the Woodward Annex lot in the Tesoro housing development on Van Ryn Avenue south of the 120 Bypass.

Pressed by members of the Measure M Citizens Oversight Committee during their meeting Wednesday night to identify the specific location of the acreage being offered by the local developer, Superintendent Jason Messer said he was not at liberty to do so at this point and would only say that the land in question is south of the 120 Bypass. He also said he could not divulge the name of the developer since negotiation is still ongoing.

While some of the important details are not being disclosed at this time, everything will be revealed once the exchange agreement is completed and ready to be signed by the members of the Board of Trustees. All the details will then be made public when the agreement comes before the board for discussion and vote, Messer said.

He did not give an exact timetable as to when the negotiations are expected to be completed due to the number of issues involved in the land exchange that need to be addressed. What to do with the Measure M money that was part of the funds that went into the purchase of the two school sites is one of those issues. Will it go back to Measure M or to the taxpayers? The district is talking with the bond underwriters on that one, Messer said.

Union Ranch, which is the Atherton development’s project on the east side of North Union Road across from the age-restricted Woodbridge at Del Webb, was acquired by the school district in 2006 at a cost of $2,019,595. Its current assessed value for 2012-13 by the San Joaquin County Assessor’s office is $2,302,841.

Homeowners at Union Ranch, for years, have complained to the school district about the eyesore in the middle of their residential neighborhood. With the school site undeveloped and merely standing as a dust bowl creating a number of issues ranging from health impacts of the swirling dusts on windy days to its effect on the values of their properties, the residents adamantly urged the school district to remedy the situation, even suggesting that the district simply sell the land. The homeowners went as far as demanding that the Community Facilities District fees that they have been paying to improve their neighborhood should be returned since it’s not being used for what they were intended.

The Woodward Annex school district site along Van Ryn Avenue just south of the 120 Bypass was purchased by the school district in 2005 at a cost of $1,990,235. San Joaquin County places its current assessed value at $2,607,501.

The swap option was favored by the board over a possible sale of the properties since staff has determined that a new 17-acre school site “will better address the future needs of housing students” in Manteca Unified. Selling the properties was torpedoed by the school board since that would have meant a loss of investment for the district.

While the Union Ranch residents have been the most vocal about the negative impacts of a vacant lot in their neighborhood, the problem is not unique to this northeast Manteca area. There are similar school sites that have been purchased but have not seen any construction due to the mortgage meltdown and housing construction screeching to a halt. Two of these vacant lands in limbo are the Ethan Allen School at Mossdale Landing in west Lathrop, and the Rustic School site on South Airport Way south of the 120 Bypass.

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