Sale to close soon on former aquatics center land in Pasco

Pasco is ready to offload nearly seven acres of land on the western side of the city once intended for a regional aquatics center.

Pasco’s Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel said the 6.7-acre property is under contract with Moore Holdings at $5 a square foot, for a total purchase price of $1.5 million.

Pasco originally owned about 14 acres of land near Sandifur Parkway and Midland Lane, north of Interstate 182.

The western half of the property sold in 2014 for $2.30 a square foot, totaling $701,316 and is now home to McCurley Integrity Subaru at 9620 Sandifur Parkway.

Moore Holdings is set to buy the eastern half and it could become a new location for Speck Hyundai, one of multiple dealerships owned by J.P. and Katy Moore.

When reached by phone, Katy Moore declined to discuss plans for the site, saying their primary focus is on the dealership they recently bought in Grandview, Mid-Valley Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

The current land sale is more than double the price per square foot of what was paid for the western half of the parcel, Strebel said.

“The McCurley parcel was discounted somewhat due to the fact that it was the initial sale and the city wanted to incentivize that type of development along Sandifur,” he said.

He said market forces account for the increase in price.

In July, the Pasco City Council agreed to sell the property, nearly five years after support washed up efforts to build an aquatics center there.

The vote had been split between the counties, with Benton County voters rejecting and Franklin County voters in favor of raising the sales tax one-tenth of one percent to pay for an indoor-outdoor aquatics center and water park.

“When that effort was not successful, the Pasco Public Facilities District started looking at its options since the vote in Pasco was favorable,” Strebel said. “However, the statute in the city’s public facilities district does not allow a recreational facility only, it has to be competitive in nature.”

Further complicating the issue, Strebel said the city’s public facilities district, or PFD, tends to discourage the financial viability of a competitive facility, and the venue would have to be primarily competitive with recreational use secondary.

“The competitive stuff just does not pencil out,” Strebel said. “Competitive venues want to be indoor and year-round. Because of that, the cost of the facility goes up exponentially for maintenance, and use is not that great.”

This made it challenging for Pasco to go it alone with an indoor facility aimed at recreational use, he said.

State law doesn’t allow for city public facilities districts to build the same projects as a regional or county facility could.

“When the statute was drafted, they picked and chose from the authorized projects, and combined them in the ‘regional public facilities district’ definition so that it had the authority to build not only a convention center, but sporting facilities and performing arts, and also recreational facilities,” Strebel said.

This key difference allowed the regional pitch to go forward in 2013 with the intention of building an aquatics center that could hold competitive swimming events and also be used recreationally by the public.

Since such a project could draw residents from multiple cities and two counties, the Tri-Cities Public Facilities District is unique in its existence by covering a regional area.

“The law really only allows for one in the whole state,” Strebel said.

Citing that different allowance for city regional public facilities district versus regional PFDs, “it’s a pretty complicated issue,” Strebel said, Pasco floated the idea of changing state law. “The Pasco Public Facilities District has been trying to see if they could have the Legislature amend the statute so that city PFDs could do the same as county or regional PFDs. So far, that’s not been successful,” he said. “There’s still some efforts being made, but that effort is not going forward very quickly.”

A regional public facilities district meeting this month will discuss an idea that’s been nicknamed “the grand bargain.” Strebel said it may be possible for each city to have a “reasonable” project, whether it’s one in each city, or one viewed favorably by each city.

The contracted acreage on Sandifur was once part of a 28-acre parcel. Strebel said Pasco bought half for $1.4 million and Leonard Dietrich, owner of Basin Disposal, bought the other half. Dietrich has since sold his to Russ Dean RV, at 9420 Sandifur Parkway, which is set to become Camping World.

The sale of the land to Moore Holdings is scheduled to close Dec. 1 and will benefit Pasco’s economic development program.

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