Saturday, July 15, 2006
Mossy Public Works Center
Encinitas considering $9.5M purchase of car dealership
By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer
ENCINITAS ---- Public Works Department Director Phil Cotton is recommending in a report that the city spend $9.5 million to purchase the Mossy Chevrolet Dealership on Calle Magdalena for a public works center.
If approved Wednesday by the Encinitas City Council, the purchase would bring an end to a years-long search for a new location for a public works facility.
Property owner Philip Mossy approached the city last month to negotiate a sale.
The department of 56 employees lost its home on Cornish Drive in 2004 to make way for a library, and since then has operated on leased space at the former Pacific View Elementary School campus.
A purchase agreement attached to Cotton's report calls for a 60-day escrow, which means the city could take possession of the 4.4-acre car lot well before Dec. 1, when the department's $1-a-year lease expires at Pacific View.
Cotton has said the dealership just east of Interstate 5 and south of Encinitas Boulevard would be an outstanding spot for a public works yard. He could not be contacted Friday.
In May, Cotton gave the council a $9.3 million estimate to build a public works facility on 4.6 acres. The estimate did not include land costs, nor did it identify where the facility would be located.
In his report, he states that the dealership could be occupied with minor modifications. Cotton is requesting that the city set aside $100,000 to purchase vehicle lifts, portable buildings and furniture.
The Encinitas lot is one of nine Mossy dealerships in San Diego County, according to the company's Web site. A Mossy Nissan also operates in Houston. Philip Mossy, who owns the Encinitas lot, did not return a telephone message Friday.
Most of the lot is paved and covered with shiny, new automobiles.
The property is zoned for commercial uses and includes 16,927 square feet of offices, covered work and storage areas, service bays and an employee locker room. Outdoor parking and storage space totals 182,373 square feet.
"It looks pretty darn good to me," Councilman Dan Dalager said Friday.
A City Hall watchdog disagreed.
Bob Bonde of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association said Friday that removing a car dealership from the city's tax base was preposterous.
"That (public works) yard could go anywhere in the city," Bonde said, "and most communities would kill to have a dealership because of the amount of sales tax they generate."
Quarterly sales tax reports prepared by a consulting firm show automobile and transportation enterprises as the city's second-biggest sales tax generator, behind general commercial goods.
In the fourth quarter of 2005, the most recent period for which data is available, auto sales comprised 16 percent of sales tax receipts, according to a report produced by HdL Cos., a Diamond Bar firm.
Mossy Chevrolet appears regularly in the company's reports as one of Encinitas' "Top 25 Producers."
State laws prohibit the city's disclosure of sales tax receipts from individual businesses.
Mossy Nissan is one of five automobile dealers that belong to the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce. The others are Encinitas Auto Sales on North Coast Highway 101; Encinitas Ford on Encinitas Boulevard; Harloff BMW on Encinitas Boulevard and Herman Cook Volkswagen on Encinitas Boulevard. Another dealership, Cardiff Classics, sells used cars from a lot on South Coast Highway 101.
According to Dalager, Mossy was preparing to close the Encinitas lot before he approached the city with an offer to sell it.
"We were going to lose the tax base one way or another," Dalager said.
Bonde also raised concerns about soil contamination at the site, which has been used for a car lot for more than 10 years.
The purchase agreement obligates Mossy to remove any contamination or underground tanks at his expense.
"We have an environmental consultant out there," Dalager said, "and anything that's not up to snuff will be the seller's responsibility to take care of."