Town gives developer one more chance
Truckee Town Council heeded the requests of Wolfe Estates Phase IV property owners Thursday and gave the developer one last chance to make good on the terms of an agreement that originally expired five years ago.
According to town policy, the Wolfe Estates Phase IV property owners cannot proceed with development plans for their properties because Wolfe Development, Inc. has for five years failed to construct roads and utility installations required by the terms of a 1994 development agreement. Two extensions to the original agreement were granted by town staff and have since expired.
“It has been six years since this guy first met his deadline,” property owner Tino Serrano said to town council. “He has a continued history of no performance at all. No one sees this guy. I feel like we’re dealing with the all-powerful Oz here. I bought four years ago and I want to build. I beg your help in letting us build our homes.”
As required by the town, Wolfe Development, Inc. in 1994 posted a bond in the amount of $267,558 to ensure that road and utility improvements to the Phase IV properties would be constructed. They never were.
The current cost of completing the work in the Wolfe Estates has been estimated at $80,000 more than the bond amount posted six years ago. The property owners will likely accept responsibility for the $80,000 shortfall or ask the town to accept this responsibility.
“To build we need $80,000 we don’t have and the homeowners don’t have,” Town Engineer Dan Wilkins said. “If Wolfe Development will do it that would be best.”
Wilkins then said that after years of correspondence between the town and the developer, town staff had yet to speak with Ron Stover, the president of Wolfe Development. Wilkins said that almost all communication with the company had been one-way communication and that when a response did come from the developer, typically that response came at the last minute.
“I have little confidence in the ability of the developer to perform,” Wilkins said.
Jean Solberg, a representative of Wolfe Development, asked council not to accept the bond payment and inferred that should council accept the bond payment, litigation might result.
Solberg said the developer had not completed the pledged improvements because all the Phase IV lots had not sold and the developer did not yet have the capital to complete the improvements. The developer was also considering a subdivision map amendment, which would further delay the improvements, Solberg said.
“I hear waffling already,” Councilmember Don McCormack said. “This sounds like the same kind of stuff we’ve been hearing for five years.”
McCormack then asked Town Attorney J. Dennis Crabb whether Solberg’s threat of legal liability was an issue of import.
“I’m not concerned about liability,” Crabb said. “The town must enforce its ordinances.”
Crabb then explained that the objective of the performance bond is to get the developer to do the work insured. The town is not in the development business, Crabb said, and accepting the bond payment might not necessarily be a good use of town resources.
“I have zero confidence the developer will perform,” Mayor Maia Schneider said.
Councilmember Bob Drake agreed with Schneider.
“Five years is enough in my view,” Drake said. “This is an arrogant developer and I don’t have any confidence in him either. This developer’s actions speak for themselves. I want to hear from the homeowners.”
Pete Record, a Bay Area resident whose Wolfe Estates Phase IV property is currently in escrow, and fellow property owner Serrano both agreed that if the developer were given very strict guidelines, they would agree to another two-week extension. Council supported their decision.
“Timing is crucial here,” Serrano said. “Because of the short building season, a six week delay could mean another year.”
Under the terms of the two-week extension, the developer must attend a meeting of town staff and Phase IV property owners prior to or on March 17. The developer must demonstrate at that meeting his ability to complete the work agreed to six years ago. This assurance must come in the form of an $80,000 security. If the property owners and town staff are confident in the developer’s abilities and pledges at this time, then the developer would be allowed to proceed with the project provided a very strict timeline is followed.
Failure of the developer to meet any of the time restrictions would cause council to accept the current $267,588 bond payment. Council would then be forced to decide how to construct the necessary road improvements so that property owners can develop their land.
“I have absolutely zero confidence in the developer and only do this because the homeowners requested it,” Schneider said just before voting to approve the extension.
Further action on the issue was deferred until the next town council meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 23.
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