It’s almost along the lines of the old-fashioned land grab during the 1880s in the Midwestern plains of the nation. And it was bound to happen as the new Interstate 15 Exit 118 interchange gets closer and closer to becoming a reality.
At Tuesday’s Mesquite City Council meeting, several items on the agenda will push the land grab into high gear.
The city owns 104 acres that straddles Lower Flat Top Boulevard, where it will meet the planned off-ramp for Exit 118 on the north side of the Interstate. The land is divided into two parcels: 5.71 acres lays on one side of the road with the remaining 98.24 acres on the other side. An appraisal commissioned by the city pegs the value of the combined parcels at $1.535 million. A second appraisal, paid for by a development group interested in purchasing the land, came in at $1.610 million.
The first agenda item the council will consider is the sales method to be used for the land. Two processes are available: a public auction or a direct sale for economic development purposes.
According to Aaron Baker, city economic development officer, three Letters of Intent received so far express interest in the land. Adjacent property owner, Hae Un Lee (owner of Lee’s Liquors stores) desires to purchase just the 5.71 acre lot. 333 Eagles Landing LLC, shows interest in the entire 104 acres. Mesquite Exit 118 Group LLC including Todd Leavitt and Stephan Wade of Stephan Wade auto dealerships, also wants both parcels.
Should the council decide to pursue a public auction sale method, even more businesses and developers could be involved. The minimum price for the combined parcels would begin at the $1.610 million mark.
By far, 333 Eagles Landing LLC has submitted the most extensive proposal package for the property and wants the city to use a direct sales method for them. They will pay the $1.610 million and build a Travel Plaza, aka truck stop, convenience store and several small restaurants in Phase I worth $6 million. The group plans to hire at least 40 people with an average hourly wage of $11. Phase II would include at least a hotel and other facilities based on market demand.
“We intend to have a state-of-the-art facility that will be architecturally beautiful with very nice details and design,” said Andy Geller, managing partner of 333 Eagles Landing in a telephone interview. “We are not a ‘Solstice.’ We do not intend to sit on the property or flip it if we purchase it. We will open for business within three years of the date we purchase the property or much sooner.”
His reference to Solstice stems from the failed project at the corner of Falcon Ridge Parkway and West Pioneer Boulevard that stands empty to this day.
Lee’s LOI did not include a specific dollar amount nor any firm plans for development. While the Mesquite Exit 118 Group offered $800,000 cash for the 104 acres, they did not include specific end use plans in their LOI.
The other two agenda items relate to the land sale issue but both depend on the sale method Council decides upon. One will set a date for a public auction should the councilors decide to go that route. The other will pertain to a direct land sale to one of the groups that submitted a LOI, should the councilors decide to use that type of process. So, depending on the decision stemming from the first vote, only one of the two subsequent agenda items will stand for a vote.
Throwing a monkey wrench into all of this is another issue planned for the Nov. 10 council meeting. Pilot Flying J Corporate headquarters intends to file a zoning variance request that, if approved, will allow it to build a Travel Plaza on the southwest corner of the I-15 Exit 120 interchange. It too will include a truck stop with 122 bays, a convenience store, and restaurants.
The immediate family of Councilman Kraig Hafen owns the property, not the city. However, city officials and others involved in the proposal have all emphatically stated that Hafen has refused to engage in any discussions or talks about the project.
The MLN was told that Pilot Flying J was not interested in building a Travel Plaza at Exit 118 because “it was too far from town and doesn’t fit with our new business model. We think Exit 120 is a much better spot for us. The roundabouts can handle the truck traffic.”
Geller, with the 333 Eagles Landing Group, told the MLN that should the Pilot Flying J variance be approved, “the competition will definitely change our design plans. We will still build, but our facility will be smaller. Mesquite can’t support two big Travel Centers so closely together. Besides, Exit 118 was built expressly to relieve truck traffic from the other two interchanges.”
To be sure, the land grab rush is on.