Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dixon-Davis greenbelt in the offing

Article Launched: 02/04/2005 07:28:13 AM

Dixon-Davis greenbelt in the offing

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer, The Reporter

The Solano Land Trust is working to preserve farmland near the Interstate 80-Kidwell Road interchange as a greenbelt. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

The Solano Land Trust is looking to preserve 300 acres toward establishing a Dixon-Davis greenbelt.

The trust announced plans Wednesday to find a buyer for the McConeghy farm, a 300-acre site near the Interstate 80 and Kidwell Road interchange. The property, on which the University of California, Davis has an option, is currently owned by the McConeghy family, said the trust's land transaction specialist Wendy Low.

"They're ready to sell," Low said. The land is currently being leased to a grower who has rotating crops of hay and tomatoes.

Low said that the UC Davis option soon will be passed to the land trust, until a buyer is found through a bid process.

With the land, the buyer would also be agreeing to keep the property under productive agricultural uses under a conservation easement agreement. That agreement is perpetual, Low said, and would follow the title for the property.

Nearly $4 million has been raised for the greenbelt thus far. Dixon chipped in $150,000 from city coffers, and Davis has supplied $500,000. UC Davis had put forth $77,500 through payments on its options.

A big $2.2 million chunk of the funding came through a state Department of Conservation grant, and $720,000 was supplied through a federal farmland protection program grant.

Low said the trust is looking for roughly $1.3 million from a buyer, which would pay for the land and the costs of the project. The land trust will host a tour and information session for prospective buyers at the McConeghy farm on Wednesday.

The $3.7 million in grant money and local government contributions will fund the conservation easement and some project costs.

The Dixon-Davis greenbelt would be similar to the open space between Dixon and Vacaville, though the two agricultural buffers came about in entirely different ways.

The Vacaville-Dixon greenbelt, established in 1996, required a massive financial front from both cities. The cities split the $2.5 million cost of 1,003 acres along Interstate 80, and then found several buyers to purchase and farm the land.

While the cities did not lose money on the deals, some city officials and residents expressed concern that the local governments were leaving taxpayers open to risk if the land couldn't be resold at the right price.

Dixon and Davis have supplied a lower amount of city funds for this deal, reducing the risk greatly.

Low said that local farmers have expressed interest in the McConeghy property already, but the land trust would like to open the process up to regional interests.

The trust also is looking to purchase land near the McConeghy farm to extend the Dixon-Davis greenbelt.

Tom Hall can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

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