About two months after declaring a stalemate in negotiations, officials from a school district and the developer of the huge Holly-Seacliff project said Thursday that they have reached a tentative agreement on the terms of a new elementary school that will serve the community.
Spokesmen for Seacliff Partners and the Huntington Beach City School District said terms of the settlement will not be finalized and released until next week. But a Seacliff Partners spokesman said Thursday that his firm made more concessions that cleared the way for the accord.
The breakthrough appears to have overcome the last major obstacle to city approval of the remaining 569 acres of the 780-acre Holly-Seacliff project. The City Council is scheduled Feb. 10 to consider the specific plan for the rest of the project, calling for 3,930 houses and condominiums.
The council had previously approved the other 211 acres of the project, which includes another 480 residential units.
The project is expected to take up to a decade to complete. A new elementary school is needed to accommodate some of 1,000 new pupils from the development.
When the project was approved by the city Planning Commission in late October, the developer and the school district were deadlocked over how much Seacliff Partners should pay the district to help build the school.
Seacliff Partners, a subsidiary of the Huntington Beach Co., had offered the district about $8 million, 20% more than the school fees the developer is required to pay by law. But Supt. Duane Dishno said that amount would fall about $1.5 million short of what his district needs to build the new elementary school and to accommodate more middle-school students.
Both sides still refused to budge on the money issue last month, when the City Council first considered the issue. In delaying action, council members strongly urged the parties to resolve differences.
"We've been heading toward this for a long time, we just haven't been able to have everything come together," said Tom Zanic, a spokesman for Seacliff Partners. He said the development partnership agreed to give up more money to settle the conflict, although he did not disclose how much.
"There was some horse-trading going on for some time, and we just had to go through certain negotiations," said Brian Garland, president of the Huntington Beach City School District Board of Trustees. "We got to a point where we decided there would be no more posturing, (that) there were no black hats here. . . . A trust level had developed, allowing this to happen."
Under the tentative agreement, a 600-pupil elementary school will be built on 8.3 acres off Garfield Avenue, at a residential street to be known as Saddleback Lane. District officials prefer that site over others that had been considered, saying that it is ideal land for a school and is centrally located within the development, Garland said.
The developer will also pay compensation to enable the district to accommodate new middle-school students. District officials are still discussing where to house those students. The district may reopen Peterson Middle School, one of the district's four closed campuses, Garland said.