UTA gives preliminary OK to Stadler Rail land deal in Clearfield

Thursday , May 25, 2017 - 5:15 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

SALT LAKE CiTY — Plans for a train manufacturing plant on Utah Transit Authority property in Clearfield took a step forward Wednesday after UTA officials approved the preliminary outlines of the deal to sell the land.

“It’s encouraging,” Clearfield Assistant City Manager J.J. Allen, who attended the UTA Board of Trustees meeting in Salt Lake City where the action occurred.

Still, the proposed Stadler Rail plant adjacent to the FrontRunner station in Clearfield — eagerly sought by city and Davis County leaders — isn’t yet a sure thing. Significantly, an appraisal of the land — key in negotiating a sales price — has yet to be completed and probably won’t be done until around mid-June, according to Paul Drake, UTA’s senior manager of real estate and transit-oriented development.

Likewise, Clearfield officials need to meet with Stadler reps to go over the measure approved Wednesday while an official from the Swiss-based firm said company reps are still weighing their options.

“We’re happy with the outcome of the meeting,” said Stadler spokeswoman Lucy Andre, who attended the gathering. At the same time, she said Stadler is still considering “multiple sites” for the proposed plant, which would manufacture trains for Caltrain, the California commuter rail network that links San Francisco and San Jose, and employ up to 1,000.

Stadler proposes building a new plant on 28.25 acres of land abutting Clearfield’s FrontRunner station. Like land around other FrontRunner stations, it had been a transit-oriented development, or TOD, property — earmarked for development meant to bolster UTA ridership.

Per Wednesday’s action, though, the UTA board removed the TOD designation and declared the land surplus property, which paves the way for its potential sale. The price for the property has yet to be pinned down, pending completion of the appraisal, and Wednesday’s resolution states that the figure can’t be less than fair market value, among other conditions.

‘Remarkable opportunity’

UTA officials extensively debated the proposal Wednesday before approving it in a 9-2 voice vote.

Backers cited the strong support the measure has in Clearfield and Davis County. Though 10 acres of former UTA land near the station is currently being developed into an apartment complex, they also noted unsuccessful efforts to promote development on the rest of the 60 acres of UTA land at the location.

“This is a remarkable opportunity,” said UTA Trustee Gregory Bell.

RELATED: Stadler Rail proposal garners strong support at Clearfield gathering

One of the foes, trustee Brent Taylor, who’s also the mayor of North Ogden, expressed discomfort approving the measure with the appraisal incomplete and a firm sales price still to be determined. A preliminary appraisal commissioned by the City of Clearfield deemed the property had a value of $1.25 per square foot, which Taylor and others blasted as too low. He also said economic development projects shouldn’t be the domain of the UTA.

Per the proposal, Clearfield would buy the 28.25 acres from the UTA and then re-sell it to Stadler, probably at a reduced price, according to Allen. Wednesday’s action also gives Stadler the option to acquire an additional 8.75 acres of land, should it settle on Clearfield as the site of its planned train plant.

Though Stadler officials maintain that they haven’t settled on Clearfield as the location of the firm’s proposed plant, they’ve been in talks with local leaders about the possibility since at least late last year. And with the announcement earlier this week that federal funds for the Caltrain project are available, Stadler is eager to build its new facility.

RELATED: Stadler eyeing Clearfield and other Utah sites for train manufacturing plant

Stadler Commercial Project Manager Michael Franz, also at Wednesday’s meeting, said the company hopes to start building within the “next couple months,” completing the new plant by the middle of 2018. The Caltrain contract is worth $551 million to Stadler and contains options for more potential work.

As discussions have evolved, some UTA trustees have expressed concern about the involvement of Sheldon Killpack in the Stadler project. Killpack, now with Kaysville-based One West Construction, is a former UTA trustee who took an “unauthorized” trip to Switzerland in 2015 as trustee with Stadler reps, according to Jayme Blakesley, the UTA general counsel.

Killpack stepped down as trustee in late 2015 and One West has since been retained by Stadler to provide “pre-construction services,” Blakesley said. However, Stadler representatives maintain that Killpack doesn’t stand to benefit any differently should Stadler choose the Clearfield site over other proposed locations, Blakesley said.* What’s more, Killpack waited 12 months after stepping down as trustee, as required by the UTA in such circumstances, before entering into the business arrangement with Stadler.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

*This story was updated to clarify an attribution.

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