No offers have been made on the historic Sonora Dome, and an appraisal on the value of the 138-acre Wildcat Ranch property will be available in a few weeks, Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Pat Chabot said Tuesday at a meeting of the district Board of Trustees.
“We would welcome any offers,” Chabot said to those in attendance, adding that, despite the many-year ownership of the Dome, no one has ever offered to “write a check” for the property.
“We’re willing to discuss any options.”
Tuolumne County Arts Alliance Executive Director Lisette Sweetland sought to clarify with the board the tiered process of notifying public agencies about the potential sale of property, and stipulated that, hypothetically, she could make an offer at any time.
After the meeting, Sweetland said she was remaining “cautious and vigilant” about the property, but the alliance is still “waiting” on the idea of submitting an official offer.
“I don’t want to do anything hasty,” she said. “We’re the tenants. Our landlord has just put our house on the market.”
The alliance rents two buildings next to the dome that have also been designated surplus property.
Board Secretary Cindy Costello indicated to Chabot that Tier 2 notices about the sale of the property were sent out on Tuesday.
The board must prioritize the submission of bids from Tier 1 entities, which include low-income housing organizations, parks and recreation agencies, the Sonora Public Works Department and Sonora Elementary School. Notices were sent to Tier 1 entities on Jan. 16, after the board declared the Dome surplus property.
Tier 2 entities include state education and regulatory agencies, the County of Tuolumne, the City of Sonora, and all the other school districts in the county.
According to the surplus property requirements, Tier 2 submissions can be considered for 60 days after Jan. 16, or until March 17.
Tier 3 entities, which include nonprofit organizations and other public and private groups, can submit official bids for the property 120 days after the first notices were sent to Tier 1 entities, or May 16.
Any of the groups can make proposals to buy or lease the property at any price, but the prioritized bid process is not a commitment from the district to accept any of the offers before others are submitted.
Potential proposals are required to be made public at future board meetings.
Advisory Committee member Ty Wivel also mentioned seeing ads “in the paper” about the sale of the Dome, and also asked for clarification about whether the tiered system bars submissions from Tier 3 organizations at this time.
Chabot confirmed that any offers can be submitted at any time but, according to education code, the first tiers are given the opportunity to submit proposals first.
The board has not declared Wildcat Ranch surplus property, which would allow the 138-acre plot at the corner of Tuolumne and Wards Ferry roads to be considered for sale or lease in the same process as the Sonora Dome.
Chabot said that, despite ongoing deliberations about the future of the property, a private appraiser has been hired to determine an actual value.
The appraiser was contacted about a week and a half ago, he said, and three to four weeks will be required to determine the value.
Board President Jeanie Smith said the board is still in discussions and has not yet reached a decision to designate the entire, or a portion of, the property as surplus.
The ranch has been the subject of greater private interest than the Dome. Some nonprofit organizations have advocated for a park or recreation center at the site, while others have suggested building commercial structures or allowing the entire property to be developed as a widespread agricultural campus.
Additionally at the meeting, the board heard a presentation from Sonora High School student and Future Farmers of America Vice President Britain Traub about the weekend Farm to Table dinner, which was attended by about 280 people; a presentation about the science department at the high school; and a discussion about the district safety plan and a state law banning firearms on school grounds with regard to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, during which 17 people were killed.