Cattle could be on the move if council approves land purchase

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Thousands of cattle and the workers who tend to them could soon know their destiny as the Maricopa City Council will look to approve a $3 million land purchase this Thursday, which would essentially cancel the lease for Maricopa Feedlot.

“We have known about this for almost a year now and have already torn down 50 percent of our operations,” said Bill Sawyer, owner of Maricopa Feedlot. Sawyer said if council does not approve the deal, the company would continue to operate at a 50 percent capacity.

Maricopa Feedlot is a 34,000-head operation located on a tract of land near White and Parker Road and the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Last November the city council entered into a non-binding agreement with the developer, El Dorado Holdings, which involved the city’s purchase for $3 million of 68 acres located within a 376-acre tract of land along the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway west of White and Parker Road.

In exchange for the land purchase, El Dorado Holdings would not renew the feedlot’s lease, and the developer would complete the environmental abatement work for the parcel, an investment that El Dorado Holdings President Jim Kenny said in November will cost upwards of $1 million. If all this abatement work were completed, the city’s parcel, which was originally scheduled to be a roadside parcel, would be converted to right of way land.

However, the deal as written forgoes the exchange and has the city purchasing the 68 acres of right of way outright for $3 million. “The exchange of land was just too complicated for a city entity to complete,” said Roger Kolman, assistant city manager.

The entire parcel’s projected use is to construct the city’s first overpass at White and Parker road and the Union Pacific Railroad. Kolman said the type of right of way the city would purchase is not the variety typically gifted by developers. While the land swap is out of the deal, other stipulations call for the cleaning of the land and the rezoning of 50 acres in the parcel from residential to commercial use. “The idea is for this area to become an employment hub,” Kolman said.

If the agreement is not approved by council, Maricopa Feedlot’s lease would essentially be terminated by December, and the company would need to clean up the land within a six-month timeframe. However, just because the feedlot is gone doesn’t mean the cattle will follow. On the west side of White and Parker Road is Pinal Feed, which operates at almost 10,000 cattle below its 50,000-cattle capacity.

“It’s better for us if they close; more cattle will now be coming here,” said Earl Petznick, owner of Pinal Feed.

Other items on the council agenda include giving $90,000 to Maricopa/Ak-Chin CAASA to operate and maintain a youth center for a year and approving a $96,000 contract with Landry, Creedon & Associates Inc. for lobbying services.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Maricopa Unified School District Office, 44150 W. Maricopa Casa Grande Highway.

Photo by Michael K. Rich