The Utah Inland Port Authority’s pursuit of 41 acres for a rail garden may well have driven up the selling price tag for the church-owned home by millions of pounds, according to a short while ago attained files, and place a federal grant at chance.
Salt Lake Garfield and Western Rail, a short-line business, has extensive aimed to move its functions out of Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove community to increase top quality of life for west-siders. As the firm has expanded by way of the several years, its rail cars and trucks frequently back up traffic at grade crossings, major to far more pollution, delays and protection challenges.
SLGW, just lately obtained by Patriot Rail, received a $13.6 million federal grant in 2018 to transfer its functions via a job known as the “Western Interchange” — in partnership with the Utah Section of Transportation. SLGW also agreed to chip in a $9 million-moreover match, so the Western Interchange would occur at no value to the state. The task experienced backing from the governor’s office environment, Salt Lake Metropolis officials, the Salt Lake Chamber and more.
In securing the grant, SLGW determined a swath of vacant land at 6 South and 5600 West as an suitable site for its plans, considering that it now adjoins easements owned by the rail enterprise. The 41-acre parcel is owned by Suburban Land Reserve, a genuine estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-working day Saints. SLGW entered into negotiations with the church shortly just after securing its federal cash.
Last July, SLGW made available the church $5.4 million dollars for the house. In March, the rail business agreed to up its present to $6 million.
The church’s brokers then made a decision to solicit bids rather. The Utah Inland Port Authority swooped in with the best give, evidently to the stress of SLGW’s operators.
“Although Port management has asserted that the Port and SLGW are ‘partners,’ the Port’s try to obtain the SLR Residence immediately jeopardizes the [federal] Grant,” John Fenton, Patriot Rail CEO, wrote in a Could 25 letter to the Salt Lake City Council and Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
The port board accepted “friendly condemnation” of the church property on May possibly 19 but did not offer any public facts about the acquire in advance, which include parcel figures, the site’s place, or how it would profit the port.
Fenton noted the port authority’s dearth of community disclosure in his letter, which The Salt Lake Tribune received as a result of a general public information request.
“The deficiency of transparency that surrounds the Port’s board conferences can make it tough to interact substantively in the community Port course of action,” he wrote, “since the SLR House in question was not stated on the Port board agenda, nor were being public copies of the condemnation resolution designed offered until finally numerous several hours after the assembly ended.”
How much did the port bid for the land?
The Tribune earlier asked for data on how a lot the port authority planned to pay back for the church ton. A individual employed to handle community relations for the port responded June 7 that “they’re however negotiating” the transaction. But Fenton’s letter notes the port authority submitted a bid of “more than $10 million.”
That is “nearly two times SLGW’s $6 million supply,” he wrote, “and shut to five situations SLGW’s possess appraised market price.”
It is unclear why the property would keep substantially worth to any person but SLGW, due to the fact it is primarily landlocked by the company’s railroad to the south and Interstate 80 to the north. Past month, Patriot Rail commissioned an appraisal that valued the home at $3.7 million with “adequate access” and $2.2 million without the need of access.
“We are unable to comprehend why a general public agency is driving up the price tag of a important parcel necessary to execute the Grant,” Fenton wrote, “particularly offered that SLGW is unaware of any other bidders for the SLR Property.”
The inland port’s outgoing executive director, Jack Hedge, who is poised to come to be the port president, earlier informed The Tribune other bidders beyond SLGW and the port had been fascinated in obtaining the property. A church spokesperson also formerly said “the Utah Inland Port Authority was the successful bidder among a number of intrigued events who produced provides on the land.”
A church spokesperson did not reply Thursday to a ask for for remark for this story.
Fenton noted in his letter that inflation has by now “severely” eroded the Western Interchange project’s scope, and the port authority’s selection placed the proposal at more chance.
“If SLGW simply cannot purchase the SLR Property at reasonable valuation,” Fenton wrote, “without limitations or situations, the total $13.65 million federal … grant awarded 4 several years back regretfully will be misplaced, and SLGW will be not able to move its operations out of [its] East Property in Poplar Grove.”
SLGW seemingly tried out negotiating when it figured out of the port authority’s programs. In April, SLGW managers proposed obtaining an easement for $5.4 million, according to the letter, with the port authority retaining possession of the land in circumstance the enterprise ceased operations.
“Notwithstanding several phone calls and communications to Port employees, SLGW been given no substantive reaction to SLGW’s proposal,” Fenton wrote, “or any other notification from the Port of its intention to move forward with condemnation.”
City wants rail property moved
SLGW and Patriot Rail began their possess eminent area approach for the property May perhaps 24, which continues to be pending.
“The Metropolis is conscious of the discussions amongst the Port, Patriot Rail and the Church,” Mendenhall stated in a assertion to The Tribune. “The City’s precedence for any upcoming operator of the residence is to make sure they commit to shifting the rail lawn and considerably decreasing rail site visitors via Salt Lake City.”
Asked for remark on the order rate for the property and contradictions around how lots of bidders had been concerned, a community relations human being for the port authority stated it would not comment on concerns relating to pending litigation.
“But [the port authority] is doing the job with its board, its lawful team and reps from Patriot Rail,” he included, “to appear to a favourable resolution that works for private enterprise and the state.”
Discussions at a modern board conference furnished clues about the port authority’s motivations in snapping up the church house.
“We have two objectives below we’re attempting to complete that we consider is in the public fascination,” board Chair Miles Hansen mentioned Thursday in response to public grievances about the transaction. “One is avoiding one entity of possessing a monopoly in excess of rail obtain north of I-80, and the other is making sure that we get at-grade rail crossings out of neighborhoods.”
Fenton resolved the port authority’s concern about “competitive access” in his letter, calling it “unfounded” given that SLGW delivers shippers alternatives through interchange agreements with Union Pacific and BNSF.
Board members also dealt with problems about the port authority’s transparency Thursday, indicating they will supply better obtain to files and procedures, as well as most likely more time for community comment and fewer closed periods.