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Vote paves way for commercial center at Santa Barbara, Veterans

By Staff | Dec 14, 2010

City Council approved revisions to a contract that will see city-owned land at the corner of Santa Barbara Boulevard and Veterans Parkway be turned into commercial activity center with Winn-Dixie as an anchor tenant.
Developer Dan Creighton is paying just over $250,000 for the property, a price that Council-member Kevin McGrail said doesn’t match the appraised amount of $1.2 million.
The deal was struck by the previous city council last April to sell the land, which is deed restricted, to Creighton.
McGrail indicated the deal was far too one sided in Creighton’s favor, which he deemed “corporate welfare.”
“That’s one of the largest commercial lots in the heart of our city. I’m scratching my head as to why we sold that for $250,000,” McGrail said. “For the life of me I cannot figure out why we’re giving this away.”
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz argued that the property — which at one time served as a fire station, which still stands — is not a benefit to the city sitting undeveloped, which it has done for some time.
Chulakes-Leetz said Creighton and local investor Steve Krieg were bringing a benefit to where one does not exist for the city.
“There seems to be a desire to create some sort of conflict where, in fact, one does not exist,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “Right now the property is useless to us.”
Krieg said the project — which includes a Winn-Dixie grocery store and bank — will provide $150,000 each year in property taxes, 300 jobs, $750,000 in impact fees and $355,000 in utility fees. All told, Krieg said the project will benefit the city to the tune of $1.5 million.
“In a day and age when developers are cutting back trying to weather the storm, Dan Creighton is out there making it happen,” Krieg said.
Creighton, who donated to both the mayor and Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz’s campaigns, said the property was sold to him for $250,000 because it was deed restricted, and the city could do no more with it except turn it into a parking lot.
“I agree it’s a prudent piece of land and I’m trying to put in on the tax roll,” Creighton said.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said the appraisal of the land “has no basis for comparison,” and that the city’s hands are tied as to what can be done with the property.
“The problem with a piece of property like this, it has those deed restrictions … there’s only so many things we can do with it,” Brandt said.
City council approved the move 6 – 2, with McGrail and Marty McClain dissenting.
Creighton said he is looking to break ground as early as April 2011.