EMWD approves new lease with Quality Turf

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Quality Turf Inc. leases land from the Eastern Municipal Water District, and a new lease will increase the rent amount Quality Turf pays the water district.

The new two-year lease was approved on a 5-0 board vote, Wednesday, July 15. The lease area encompasses 140 acres adjacent to EMWD’s San Jacinto Valley Regional Water Reclamation Facility. Quality Turf will pay $80 per acre annually.

The land is referred to as the Buena Vida property.

“This lease was in place when we bought the property,” Paul Jones, general manager of Eastern, said.

Originally the lease was for 190 acres, although Eastern expects the completion of 5 megawatts of solar power generation in the new future as well as future addition of on-site water treatment facilities, so the lease area was reduced for this year’s renewal. The lease was originally approved in 2014, and new leases were approved in 2016 and 2018.

“He has been a very good lessee, and he’s kept the property in good condition,” Jones said, speaking of Ralph Daily, who owns Quality Turf.

In April, a competitive solicitation was released to current recycled water users and others for a new lease on the Buena Vida property. Quality Turf submitted the only bid and offered $80 per acre.

“The lease amount is extremely low,” Stephen Corona, board member of EMWD, said.

The amount is an increase from the $50 per acre Quality Turf is currently paying. The current lease expires Dec. 31.

The district obtains benefits from the lease other than rental income. The presence of a tenant who uses recycled water allows Eastern to sell some of its recycled supply, and the lease rental amount does not include water purchases. The lease also means that Quality Turf rather than the district is paying for maintenance and upkeep.

In the absence of a tenant, Eastern would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep costs and would also be required to provide appropriate security.

“We need to maintain those properties,” Jones said.

Jones said that the district has similar leases for other properties.

“We felt it was comparable,” he said of the $80 per acre rate Quality Turf will be paying.

A lease adjacent to the Perris Valley Regional Water Reclamation Facility brings the district $76 per acre annually.

The lease area also has a high alkali level in the soil.

“It is not very good ground,” Randy Record, board member of EMWD, said.

The original acquisition of the Buena Vida property included an existing single-family home on approximately 10 acres of land. The district said it does not believe that the house or the surrounding 10 acres would be of use to Eastern in the future. Eastern’s real property division has initiated appraisal proceedings on the property and is also seeking to provide that 10-acre area with a separate assessor’s parcel number so that the land can be sold in the future. The current tenant of the house and surrounding land is paying $1,500 per month and has expressed interest in purchasing the property once Eastern declares it surplus to district needs and offers it for sale.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.