DAYTON - The developer of a proposed shopping center off the mostly commercially void Dayton Valley Road has no buildings and no money, about 19 months after the project was first announced.
No one will be shopping at Como Gardens any time soon - unless a buyer picks up the development opportunity on the busy road that leads to most of Dayton's residential population.
"I'm probably going to have to sell it to pay my debts," said developer Mike Walker, who owns the 8.7 acres adjacent to his Dayton Valley Floral & Nursery. "My dreams and aspirations have gone by the wayside because of the county's inability to deal with me in an expeditious manner."
Walker said Monday he blames the county's lengthy list of demands for his planned $14 million commercial shopping center, which would've featured locally owned businesses.
One of those local investors said he will bring Walker to court for breach of contract after losing more than $100,000 because of Como Gardens.
A top Lyon County official said Walker signed off on the list of 47 conditions before the project was approved for its tentative commercial subdivision map on Aug. 3.
Project engineer Dennis Smith, of Western Engineering, said the county told Walker he must widen Dayton Valley Road for an intersection, which would've cost up to $150,000. For developers with the money, this may not have been much of a problem.
"Without a big anchor it's difficult for a boutique shopping center to support that type of development," Smith said.
Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis said she is sorry to hear that the developer has scrapped his plans for the 15-building project at 231 Dayton Valley Road, but it isn't unusual.
"It's a private-sector decision," she said. "There are many reasons why developers don't go forward. Maybe the market isn't right, or their financial situation changes."
Walker said it's the county's demands that have led to his financial situation. He said the planning department's conditions have delayed the project, which has cost him money.
"I took out a big fat loan to do it, and when you pay over $400,000 in interest in the last two years, you've lost your money and your loan is due," he said. "The county has bankrupt me."
Lyon County Planning Director Rob Loveberg said the conditions put on Como Gardens are expected for any development of this type.
Walker said it is no longer affordable to build in Dayton.
"I was going to build 15 buildings, but now sewer connections are $10,000 each," Walker said. "Water went up from $2,500 an acre (foot) to $25,000 an acre (foot), that's what water is selling for out here if you can find it. By delaying me and with timing, in a small community you can over build. If you didn't get in and be one of the first ones - it's like what happened to housing. It's over saturated right now."
Developer Dwight Millard said these numbers are accurate, and he's paid as much as $30,000 per acre foot for water. He said the water policy in Dayton and its costs have killed affordable housing in Dayton, and it is affecting commercial.
One of Como Gardens' investors is bitterly disappointed.
According to comments Walker made in July, seven of the properties were in escrow, which included an orthodontist, insurance and title companies, a hair salon and a restaurant.
Ron Gray, of Dayton, was purchasing two of the proposed buildings for a hot dog business and a rental store front. His $5,000 down payment will be returned if he agrees to sign off on the escrow - which Gray said he won't do.
"I've lost too much money in this project to walk away from it," he said Monday. "(Walker) would like people to walk away from it, but there's going to be a court battle over it."
Gray said he's lost about $120,000 in revenue from property he sold prior to getting into Como Gardens, including a barber shop in Palo Alto, Calif., that he owned for 11 years and a Dayton rental house. He also lost money buying supplies for a restaurant that is nothing more than dirt.
He was expecting to spend $239,000 on the buildings, the culmination of his dream of owning his own building and business.
"I was the first investor in there and trusted Mike Walker explicitly," Gray said. "We thought he was a developer who was going to do everything right."
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
Another problem with Como Gardens
Mike Walker, the developer, also has an unresolved conflict over the use of a pie-shaped half-acre parcel located inside his development, which he purchased from Lyon County about four years ago.
The parcel was controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and was supposed to be used for a public purpose.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Rye said an offer was made to buy it back for what Walker paid, about $3,000, but Walker has not consented. Walker said he has tried to be reasonable, but the county has not wanted to work with him.