Commission says it’s not just the thought that counts

0
208

In an effort to win a density bonus for a large self-storage facility it has proposed for Cross Creek Road, the project’s developer, Mariposa Land Company, came to the Planning Commission last week bearing gifts for the city.

But the commissioners found the offer of public benefits — including a grant of $100,000 for ball fields — not quite generous enough and declined the gifts, as well as the request for additional square footage. While the commissioners approved a smaller version of the project, planned for just north of Civic Center Way, the commission in effect left the City Council to decide what type and amount of public benefits would merit a bonus density.

In refusing the gifts — which also included the removal of invasive vegetation from adjacent state park land and the execution of an open-space deed restriction to prevent further development on the parcel — the commissioners expressed a lack of satisfaction with what Mariposa’s Grant Adamson had offered the city.

Commissioner Ken Kearsley and Vice Chair Andrew Stern said the $100,000 was not adequate. “I think $100,000 is too low,” said Stern. “I’d like at least $200,000.”

The commissioners also said they were uncomfortable with Mariposa’s suggestion that the money be held by a third party, such as People Achieving Recreation & Community Services (PARCS) for the benefit of the city. “We have to have some hand in it,” said Kearsley.

Other commissioners insisted that a public benefit should mitigate the impacts of a development. “The money for playing fields is nice, but I don’t see how it benefits the surrounding area,” said Chair Jo Ruggles.

Commissioner Charleen Kabrin echoed that sentiment. “I’d like to see it tied to a comprehensive improvement of the area around the site,” she said.

Sensing the commission would not agree on whether the right type of public benefit had been offered, planning staff member Drew Purvis, sitting in for a vacationing Planning Director Craig Ewing, suggested the City Council should negotiate over public benefits. Commissioner Ed Lipnick, who said he did not even know whether a gift of cash was appropriate, agreed.

“I’m uncomfortable with this,” he said. “It’s a policy issue that is best settled at the City Council level.” The commission then unanimously approved the project at 42,275 square feet, three-quarters the size of that originally proposed. Mariposa is expected to appeal the denial of the larger size project to the council and once again seek an exchange of public benefits for a bonus density.