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Couples lost the parcel to foreclosure while waiting for SMART contract

Owners of a property long eyed as Petaluma's second SMART train depot are now "aggressively marketing" the parcel to other potential buyers, saying the rail agency won't make a commitment.

The 6.5-acre property at Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard was identified as a potential rail station as early as 2005. Because of funding shortages, it was left off SMART's initial construction phase, going on now, from Santa Rosa's Railroad Square to downtown San Rafael.

Two Petaluma couples who owned the property lost it to foreclosure in December to the lender, Sonoma Equity Lending. They had tried unsuccessfully to work out a lease-option or sale with SMART, company president Jeff Mayne said Friday.

Mayne said he recently contacted SMART leadership on behalf of Sonoma Equity investors and was told "emphatically that they are not interested in buying the property at this time."

"Yet to this day," he said, "their website and documents say they plan a station at that property."

SMART Executive Director Farhad Mansourian said Friday that his agency hasn't promised the property owners anything.

"I don't believe SMART is tying them up in any way, shape or form," he said. "Any implication that SMART is keeping them in a limbo is inaccurate."

His message to the new owners is: "You need to make your own business decisions."

But SMART's failure to either secure the property or disavow interest in it as a station site caused several potential developers to back out of deals with the previous owners, Mayne said.

In 2010, SMART identified the site in its property acquisition plan: "SMART is currently considering an industrial property along Corona Road in Petaluma for a rail station. ...The number or extent of the businesses operating on the site is currently unknown, but business relocations are anticipated."

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