OCTA and Anaheim Settle ARTIC Dispute With a Land Sale

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The Orange County Transportation Authority has agreed to sell a 13.5-acre site to Anaheim, ending a months-long dispute between the two agencies over the land that is to one day host a regional transportation center.

OCTA’s board of directors and the Anaheim City Council approved the $32.5-million sale at public meetings this week. City leaders hope to build on the land the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), a hub that is envisioned to connect buses, taxis and possibly the state’s planned high-speed rail system.

The sale agreement is a major step forward from just two months ago, when several OCTA officials said the agency was at “loggerheads” with the city over the details of a land lease.

OCTA staff in May presented a lease to the board’s Finance and Administration Committee without key deal points — like how project revenue would be shared — because the city needed the lease to start construction, OCTA officials said. The rest of the agreement would have been negotiated over 18 months, they said.

Committee member and Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell wasn’t ready to give up negotiation leverage. “I am not willing to wait for the city of Anaheim to come forward in 18 months and say, ‘Have we got a deal for you,’ ” Campbell said at the committee meeting.

Campbell pointed to another land lease with Anaheim that in his view was a bad deal for the county. The Orange County Flood Control District leased land adjacent to the Honda Center to the city, with the Flood Control District to receive a portion of the profits, he said. But the revenue-sharing calculations resulted in the county not receiving “a dime,” he said.

“I hope the city understands they’re going to have to change their mentality. No more ‘trust us.’ … I don’t trust you,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s colleagues on the committee agreed with him. So the lease idea was ultimately scrapped, and the city agreed to buy the land. Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach said the sale agreement is a “cleaner” solution.

Under the terms of the agreement, Anaheim will make payments to OCTA over 14 years at a 2 percent simple-interest rate, according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

The money to buy the land will come from Measure M2, the countywide half-cent sales tax that funds local transportation improvements. Like other cities, Anaheim receives a share of that revenue based on a formula that factors population, sales tax and the miles of driving lanes in the city.

While the land dispute may be over, ARTIC remains controversial. Critics like Moorlach question the wisdom of building ARTIC’s grand terminal structure with public resources. As planned, the terminal would cover 56,000 square feet and be 120 feet tall.

Of the project’s $184.2-million total estimated cost, $68 million is for the main terminal, according to OCTA documents.

“I just don’t get it,” Moorlach said. “Basically you just need to keep people shaded from the sun and the train on the platform.”

The Orange County Grand Jury doesn’t share Moorlach’s concerns. The watchdog body investigated  the project and found that the “iconic” structure would be a positive addition to Orange County’s landscape and will lead to greater private investment.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in the fall, with the center to open in 2014, according to city officials.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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