Planning panel recommends changes to La Paz deal

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The proposal goes to the City Council on Nov. 10.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The MalibuTimes

A shorthanded Planning Commission on Tuesday night recommended changes to the La Paz development agreement that would allow for the possibility of a wastewater treatment plant on the property. The commission also recommended the length of time the developers have to construct the complex be extended from five years to 10.

The vote was 2-1, with Commissioners Jeff Jennings and Ed Gillespie voting in favor and Commission Chair Joan House dissenting. Commissioner John Mazza was forced to recuse himself because he had spoken against the project at a public meeting prior to joining the commission. Commissioner Regan Schaar did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The original development agreement calls for the developer of the Civic Center area property to donate 2.3 acres of land and $500,000 to the city for the construction of a City Hall. This would be in exchange for La Paz getting to build a 112,058-square-foot retail and office complex. Without the donation, city law limits La Paz to a 99,177-square-foot development.

The revised agreement has La Paz offering the property and money for “any municipal purpose.” Several possibilities are listed. At a City Council hearing on La Paz last month, Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich said she wanted a wastewater treatment plant built on the property that would be connected to various properties throughout the area.

House said on Tuesday she supported a variety of municipal uses for the La Paz property such as a teen or senior center, but she is adamantly opposed to the building of a City Hall, which she said would violate multiple building codes. And a City Hall is still listed as a possibility in the revised document.

“[The agreement] looks like a back door in,” House said. “I just can’t approve it.”

Jennings, who made the motion to approve the two changes, encouraged House to support the motion.

“Then it would seem [the changes] would make it a better agreement … better in all cases … better in more time … and better in more uses,” Jennings said.

Six members of the public spoke regarding the item, including Mazza, who spoke as a public speaker since he was not allowed to vote.

“Even though I agree with what the City Council did [change the development agreement offering], I recommend you [the Planning Commission] have no recommendation because you don’t have enough information in the staff report on the project to make one,” he said.

Others spoke on various reasons for opposing the project, but not regarding the proposed changes. City planner Stephanie Edmondson and Deputy City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich encouraged the commission to only consider the two changes and not the other issues surrounding the controversial project proposal.

“Thankfully the plan placed before you is limited in scope,” said Don Schmitz, a planning consultant hired by La Paz. “It is ironic our loyal opposition says [the other issues] have not been formally vetted … [but] the changes are simple.”

After the meeting, Schmitz said he “supports municipal uses of the property thoroughly vetted through an environmental review process.” He did not specify if he or his client supported the construction of a wastewater treatment plant.

The revised agreement will go before the City Council on Nov. 10.