Friday, September 14, 2012

Mountain Rides OKs Bellevue land purchase

Property would serve as new South Valley Transportation Center

Express Staff Writer

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority has approved purchasing this building and a 2.97-acre parcel of land in south Bellevue for a South Valley Transportation Center for the organizationís commuter bus operations. The offer, at $780,000, is still subject to approval by the property owner, Gannett 75 LLC. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board of directors voted 7-0 Wednesday to purchase a 2.97-acre property in south Bellevue to be used as a long-planned South Valley Transportation Center for the organization’s commuter bus service.
    At a special meeting, the board approved sending a letter of intent to property owner Gannett 75 LLC to buy the land, which includes a 4,480-square-foot two-story building, for $780,000. The purchase is still subject to approval by the owner.
    “If the seller rejects the price, then we don’t go anywhere—it just dies at that point,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said in an interview. “The price is what we believe is fair-market value. It’s been a long process and luckily the property hasn’t been sold in the meantime, so we’re hopeful we can move into an agreement with the owner.”
    Miller explained at Wednesday’s board meeting that since the purchase would be funded 80 percent by a Federal Transit Administration grant, federal officials put restrictions on the purchase price that basically eliminated any negotiations between Mountain Rides and Gannett 75 LLC. Miller said that before the offer was made, Mountain Rides was required to obtain a “categorical exclusion” to determine that a National Environmental Protection Act environmental study was not required. Further, the Federal Transit Administration had several appraisals conducted before it arrived at $780,000 that the agency determined was fair-market value for the property.
    The Mountain Rides board of directors has met several times recently in closed executive session to discuss the purchase. Wednesday’s meeting was started with a one-hour executive session before the board convened into open session to vote on the purchase.
    Ketchum real estate agent Paul Kenny, of Paul Kenny & Matt Bogue Commercial Real Estate, representing Gannett 75 LLC, attended Wednesday’s meeting after the board convened into open session. He said in an interview later that because of the nature of the transaction, that was the first time he or his client became aware of the proposed purchase price. Kenny said he will now take the proposal to his client for consideration.
    The property, which is composed of two lots, 883 and 901 S. Main St., is the former business location of All Seasons Landscaping, which about two years ago moved to a site south of Bellevue.
    The property is one lot south of the intersection of state Highway 75, which also serves as Main Street in Bellevue, and Gannett Road. Traffic would be able to access the property from either the highway or Gannett Road.

“If the seller rejects the price, then we don’t go anywhere—it just dies at that point.”
Jason Miller
Mountain Rides

    The South Valley Transportation Center has been on the Mountain Rides wish list for about four years. Miller said at Wednesday’s meeting that several other properties in Bellevue have been evaluated during the past few years but that the Gannett 75 land provided the best match for Mountain Rides’ needs.
    If the purchase goes through, Miller said, Mountain Rides would have to make modifications to the building and the property, including building an additional bus bay and adding asphalt for parking. Once completed, Mountain Rides intends that the location would provide inside parking for commuter buses, a maintenance shop, storage and a south valley park and ride.
    Board Chair Peter Everett noted that the building is large enough that it could eventually also house a south valley “visitors or welcoming center.”
    Mountain Rides has about $1 million set aside for the property purchase and site renovations, with $800,000 provided by a grant from the Federal Transportation Administration and the remainder in 20 percent local matching funds.
    At Wednesday’s meeting, Everett said the property is a “perfect location” for north valley commuters who live in Bellevue, Carey, Fairfield or other locations in the south valley and beyond.
    “It’s been a long process for us to get to this point,” said Mark Gilbert, who represents the city of Sun Valley on the Mountain Rides board of directors. “I’m personally very excited that today we get to officially leverage this property.”
    Jim Jaquet, who represents Blaine County on the Mountain Rides board of directors, said the new center “will really help our most important route, which is the feeder route from Bellevue and the south valley.”

Terry Smith:

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