Way Cleared for Deal on School, Housing Tract

Times Staff Writer

The City Council has voted unanimously not to impose a moratorium on residential construction, thereby supplying the final link in a complex financing plan with developers that ultimately is expected to provide funding for a new elementary school in North La Verne.

In exchange for backing off the moratorium, a group of developers in the hilly North La Verne area has voluntarily agreed to pay building fees totaling about one-third more than could have been levied on them under state law.

The burgeoning Bonita Unified School District, estimating that the new housing will bring about about 500 additional elementary-age students into the district, will use the money to build the school.

'Working for Same Thing'

"It became apparent that we were all basically working for the same thing," district Supt. James T. Johnson Jr. said of the protracted negotiations between developers, the city and school district. "I think we've got it in place now."

The agreement hinges on a deal with Live Oak Development and two other developers who have bought portions of the 225-unit Live Oak tract, under which the firms would pay $1.14 million toward the approximate $5 million cost of the school.

Under state law, the Live Oak group could not have been required to pay more than $800,000 in building fees.

"We had to do something in order to solve the problem," said Hassan Izad, president of Live Oak Development. "If it's going to solve the problem, it's worthwhile for us financially."

School officials also said the developers would pay the the $1.14 million up front, enabling the district to collect interest on the money or use it to purchase portable classrooms if necessary.

City officials said the rest of the $5 million could be generated almost entirely from the standard building fees that will be imposed on the other estimated 800 units scheduled for construction in North La Verne over the next three years.

One of the largest of the firms involved in that construction, Hughes Development Corp., has promised that it would join Live Oak in making an extra contribution in the form of larger building fees if the city would approve certain levels of density for its projects.

City officials, however, said the Hughes housing tracts would be scrutinized during the planning process just like any other construction project.

"School fees have nothing to do with what's right for zoning in the city," City Manager William Sheldon said. "One thing that the city is going to make everyone aware of is that they did not sell out the integrity of the city for a few bucks."

Defeated by Voters

The Bonita school district, which serves 9,000 students in La Verne and neighboring San Dimas, began planning for a new elementary school early last year but was forced to halt its efforts abruptly in December when La Verne landowners overwhelmingly defeated an assessment district that would have raised the full $5 million.

Caught without the anticipated revenue, the school district requested that the city delay or ban residential construction until a method for funding the new school could be determined.

The city, similarly concerned about approving a housing development without a school to handle the new students, had agreed to consider a moratorium on residential construction.

Several developers, however, feared that a moratorium or any delay would jeopardize their projects and offered to pay the extra building fees in return for the city's approval.

School officials, in turn, saw the higher fees as a way to finance a new school and, at the end of December, signed an agreement with the developers as a show of support.

When the council voted to drop all plans for a moratorium last week, both city and school officials saw the action as the final step toward securing funding for the school. No definite time frame has been set for construction.

"I'm very optimistic that the commitments made and the agreements signed will, in fact, result in a new school," Mayor Jon Blickenstaff said. "And that is our main interest."

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