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Deer Creek Developer Delays Vote on Project

Fearing a lawsuit should the shopping center be approved, developer asks for more time to review incoming comments

In a last minute change of plan, the Petaluma city council voted to postpone discussion of the Deer Creek Village shopping center project, after the developer requested more time to review comments submitted by residents, neighborhood groups and their attorneys criticizing the plan.

Just an hour before the council was set to convene for its meeting, the city clerk and attorney received an email from Michael Grehl, vice president of Merlone Geier Partners, requesting that the city postpone discussion of the project’s

The FEIR is a critical document that assesses everything from noise and traffic to impacts on nearby businesses of the proposed 345,000 square foot shopping center that would be located on North McDowell Boulevard and Rainier Avenue.

“We’ve enjoyed a positive working relationship with you and feel it’s pivotal that our project be heard with full support of staff,” Grehl wrote Petaluma Deputy Planning Manager Heather Hines. “We continue to look forward to bringing the project and its final FEIR for review at such time when the city is ready to hear and vote on these items.”

Over the past several days, numerous residents have submitted comments to the city, pointing out flaws in the shopping center, specifically its dependency on the , which may not be built following the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.

The comments came from Janice Cader Thompson and Gerald Thompson, who live across the street from the proposed shopping center, from former mayor Pam Torliatt , and Paul Francis, who heads the Petaluma Neighborhood Association and who sued the city over the Target Regency project in 2010.

Read the letters on the right

Because of the incoming comments (and the fear one of those groups will sue the city and the developer if the project is approved), City Attorney Eric Danly recommended that the council delay the issue until April 2. The council voted in favor of postponing the discussion 6-1, with Teresa Barrett opposing the delay.

“I am very disappointed in this decision and think that for the developer to pull the project does a disservice to everyone, to both the public and the process,” Barrett said.

Harris, Albertson and Healy all expressed disappointment and frustration over the delay, although Healy added that it served a useful purpose to “get all the cards on the table.”

Mayor Dave Glass emphasized that the delay was not caused by the council, but was  due to the developer’s request.

“I don’t want anyone to say that the city council delayed this project, that would not be truthful,” Glass said. “This project was removed from the agenda at the request of the applicant…and it was in the best legal interest of the city.”

The city will now hold a special meeting to discuss Deer Creek on Monday, April 2 at 6pm.

Do you want to see the shopping center be built at the location? Something else? Has this project dragged on too long and simply needs to be approved? Talk to us (in the comments below).

Tom Joynt February 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Yes, I want a compliant development! Yes to Friedman's. And Yes to a short delay. Let us get it right. But this is a great opportunity to welcome back a valuable store - one that was here long before any Lowes or Home Depot existed. Burned out in the 80's along E. Washington, Friedman's is an extraordinary employer with benefits and programs that the community needs. They give and they give generously. We must find a way to make this happen - too good to miss out. Revenue is needed for parks and recreation, street and sewer, police and fire and variety of services that are needed, unless we want to put police and fire on a 4 day week, close parks on the weekend? Resistance to this project is what turns moderate, middle of the road citizens, to wondering what DOES this council support. I further wonder if those who protest and threaten to sue, in this instance, are becoming like the folks who seek suits as an income source....going for deep the pockets of the city. There is reason to believe a crosstown connector is needed - let us make it happen. Enough with the NIMBY attitude!
Sandy Ducoff February 28, 2012 at 03:24 PM
A project should never be approved simply because it has "dragged on too long." This project would have a huge impact on the neighborhood, on the existing businesses with which it will compete, and on traffic on McDowell. Some critics say that it violates Petaluma's General Plan. Supporters claim significant economic benefit for a town hard hit by recession. These are important and sometimes complex considerations which should receive thorough review. Approval should be based only on the projects merits and on the ability to eliminate or modify the problems it might cause.
Robin February 28, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Why not use the soon to be vacant old Safeway building in the mean time?
pb February 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
We do not another shopping center. We already have FIFTEEN. Gee, you need that peice of plywood once a year, you can drive 10 miles to get it in Cotati, or try OSH, they have lumber, too. Merlone Geier just wants to build it and flip it for a buck. As for the "business-friendly" hacks on the city council, they are not really business friendly since Deer Creek will kill hundreds of local jobs. But they are easily bought.
Ptown February 28, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Good move by the city, Merlone, and Friedmans.. Now they know everything that needs to be covered ahead of time and won't need to give out any free money to those with their hands out in order for approval. Look forward to some changes and ultimate approval.
Linda Speel February 28, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I love Friedman's coming back. My concern is building in the flood area's!
M February 28, 2012 at 08:44 PM
The postal service won't be using the mail processing center after May. That would be a great place for Friedman's. It would be a great way to recycle an existing structure. Why do we need another shopping center? Recycle, reuse, reduce!
Petaluma Seer February 28, 2012 at 09:48 PM
TJ, You mistake thorough vetting as resistance to the project. Is it protest? Or rather wanting everything necessary to come into place, in an effort for the project, to be what is best for all Petalumans. We like our clean air, we like adequate traffic mobility, we like proper mitiagation for wildlife, we like the Payran neighborhood not to be flooded from impacts, we like to use pedestrian friendly walkable projects, we like to bicycle to and around them, we like aesthetically pleasing developments, we love that this is a beautiful heritage city and want to keep its character in place. These are goals. It is not a NIMBY situation. Our goals are not anti development, rather we look to the bigger picture into sustainablity. Geez, did you have to plant a suggestion of bounty hunter lawsuits? In its current state of FEIR, that would be a slamdunk. Wish you hadn't put that out there. So far the lawsuits were in protection of the people. Sorry you can't appreciate that. And no, I was not involved in that former lawsuit, but appreciate their courage to stand up for their fellow Petalumans. I suppose people may think soldiers go to war for glory. Outrageous thought of courageous veterans.We just want a great project, that serves all, sustainably.
Petaluma Seer February 28, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Looks like from Tom Joynt's comment, it will be best if the City conscientiously dot every i and cross every t, as now, the thought of bounty hunter lawsuit is planted.Aurgh! The largest hands out now, unfortunately, is the City's, as they need $100 mill and the approval of Caltrans to continue the myth of the largest mitigating infrastructure in both the GP2025, and the DCV FEIR, Rainier Interchange and/or Crosstown Connector.
Mitch February 29, 2012 at 03:03 AM
M - talk about a traffic nightmare. That is like putting Friedman's on Washington St.
Max February 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM
After seeing some of the negative comments regarding the lawsuit and settlement over the Target project, I took it upon myself to seek out and read those settlement agreement docs. What I discovered was that Regency Centers (the developer of the Kenilworth/Target site) actually sued the City of Petaluma first. The costs to the City from a lawsuit of this nature was in fact NOT covered under any indemnification clause, and the City had racked up legal fees of about $50,000. In fact, the suit was still pending even after the Target project was approved. Amazingly, when the community group came to an agreement later over their lawsuit that followed the developer's pending one, the community group made it a provision that the developer would pay back all expenses incurred from their own lawsuit against the City of Petaluma! The final sum came to about $66,000. Another way to understand it is, not only did the the community group get the developer to finally drop their suit against the City but, they also recouped the City $68,000. It really makes you wonder who the real bad guys are, huh? The community group (NIMBYs as some call 'em) were under no obligations to make this part of their settlement, yet they did it anyway! They were also able to make the project just a little better too.
Max February 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM
There seems to be a misunderstanding that keeps coming up regarding lawsuits over development. I've worked in the development industry for years, I'd like to clarify a few things for people who may not understand the legal aspects of the process. It is important to understand that the City is protected against any lawsuit that may result from a development approval. This is called an "indemnification clause" This applies to any type of development project, small or large. In this case, a very large shopping center, the City is required under CEQA law to prepare a EIR for. It is the City's responsibility to prepare a comprehensive study and vet all the foreseeable impacts through a public process. Still, the developer must agree to indemnify the City for any legal costs if there is a lawsuit...
Ptown February 29, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I remember reading a developer wants to buy this property from Merlone, a developer which some of these filing suits may have ties to.
Petaluma Seer February 29, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Ptown, WHAT???? Please elaborate. Read where? Which lawsuit group? Those you see now, or those not yet known coming to the City?
Petaluma Seer February 29, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Ptown, i just want the scoop. What are you referring to. Someone wants to buy this property from this developer? Who? What does their project look like? Better? Same? What do you know?
Ptown March 01, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Why has Torliatt thrown in a lawsuit here, duplicating others suits against the project? Especially after herself personally approving a larger big box center with worse traffic impacts. Even a blind mean can see it's all about the $$$$$.
Petaluma Seer March 01, 2012 at 10:16 AM
What are you talking about? When did Torliatt throw in a lawsuit? Did I miss something? I knew of 2, see other Legal Eagles lining up, did not know Torliatt was bring one in. It is unfortunate that the people have to bring forth lawsuits, or potential lawsuits to protect the citizens from overblown projects. It is the result of the devlopers not listening to the will of Petalumans who care about economic, physical, and social sustainablity, clean air, adequate traffic mobility, bicycle and pedestrian mobility, proper wildlife mitigation, curbing excessive noise, protection of public safety, and preserving the guidelines of the GP2025. It is simple, when in Rome do as the Romans do. IE. create a development that fits the socialolgy, the values,the economics, and the environment of the City in which they want to build in. It is the basis of all basic Business models. You go against this and your bottom line shrinks, and shrinks. It is time they work with Petalumans, not just anticipate Political official votes. We are a TRIAD, City and its officials, the Citizens of Petaluma, and the Developers. We have to operate in a cohesive manner.
Petaluma Seer March 01, 2012 at 10:23 AM
PT, you keep saying things that may be mere hearsay. You do not answer the questions. If you do know something state your source. You allude to an investor wanting to buy the site. You allude to Torliatt bringing in a suit. Where do you get this stuff? Did i miss something? Please, cough it up....details, only if you have any. Planting mythical stories otherwise.

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