Environmentalists OK Conservation Deal for California Development

After years of legal battles and negotiations, several major environmental groups and the Tejon Ranch Co. today announced they have reached an agreement that would preserve 90 percent of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch in California and enable development of a master-planned community, resort and industrial complex to continue.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials were scheduled to join Tejon Ranch Co. executives today for a press conference detailing the deal covering the largest contiguous mass of land under single ownership in the state of California. Located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield, Calif., the ranch is in the Tehachapi Mountains and runs along Interstate-5. The ranch is already home to the Tejon Industrial Complex, a 1,450-acre industrial center with tenants like IKEA and Oneida Inc., as well as the 51-acre Petro Travel Plaza. It is also one of the larger wine grape growers in the state with contracts with companies such as E & J Gallo Winery to use over 600 acres at the ranch to cultivate its grapes.The agreement between Tejon Ranch Co., The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California, Planning and Conservation League and the Endangered Habitats League, would preserve about 178,000 acres and set in motion plans for 62,000 acres of land to be purchased for conservation. Under the deal, the environmental groups would not oppose the company’s development plans for about 30,000 acres on the ranch’s western side where it plans to build the Centennial community, Tejon Mountain Village and a development project adjacent to the Tejon Industrial Complex.“By removing the potential obstacles that have plagued similar development efforts in California, we’ll be able to move ahead with the entitlement processes on our current development projects in a much more timely fashion,” Michael Winer, portfolio manager for Third Avenue Management L.L.C., the company’s largest shareholder, said in release today.While any developments would still have to gain local and state approvals, the agreement is expected to make it easier for Tejon Ranch Co. to move forward with its development plans. Expected to be built out over 25 years, Centennial will be a self-contained community with approximately 23,000 homes as well as schools, recreation and medical facilities and commercial and industrial businesses. Tejon Ranch Co. has partnered with Lewis Investment Co., Pardee Homes and Standard Pacific Homes to develop the community at the south end of the property near Highway 138 and east of I-5. Tejon Mountain Village will be a 5,000-acre mountain resort with about 23,000 acres retained as a nature preserve. It will feature boutique hotels, golf courses and more than 3,000 vacation and primary ownership homes.Construction of the Tejon Industrial Complex started several years ago. Last year, IKEA built a 2 million-square-foot main distribution warehouse there. CPN reported Oct. 31, 2007, that Tejon Ranch Co. and Rockefeller Group Development Corp. were constructing a second building at the site, a 120,000-square-foot facility. The two joint venture partners also built a 606,000-square-foot warehouse.