The Davis City Council on Tuesday night, during their long range calendar discussion, agreed to agendize a discussion of Measure R changes for the Mace 200 project. However, the proposed changes are already drawing concern, criticism and opposition, and not just from those who are necessarily opposed to the business park proposal.
Councilmember Brett Lee, for instance, remains a strong supporter of bringing in a business park, but not the changes to Measure R. The Vanguard has previously noted that Wildhorse Ranch in part was derailed over concerns that baseline project features that the developers agreed to during the Measure J process would not be binding unless included in the Developer Agreement.
We will learn more by the end of the day today as to what will be agendized for discussion for Tuesday, when Robb Davis replaces Joe Krovoza on the city council.
However, there is already an immediate impact on the process. John Hodgson, representing the Northwest Quadrant Development team, wrote a letter to Rob White on Thursday, where he indicated that “the process should ensure that the City is well positioned to implement the very best ideas for creating a world-class facility.”
He wrote, “Our suggested approach is to work collaboratively with the City, the County, the Davis community, UC Davis and interested technology companies to create a proposal that works well for everyone.”
He continues, “In our view, significant outreach to all parties within a reasonable period of time is needed to assure the best possible innovation Center, and we further believe that such an approach is consistent with the process the City initiated in its issuance of the RFEI.”
Mr. Hodgson indicated that, while he does not believe it is good public policy or strategically wise to place a ballot measure on the ballot at this time, if the city is inclined to consider that approach, they are requesting the same treatment as the Mace Innovation Proposal.
“We believe it would be in the best interest of the City to ensure both proposals are covered by any such Council action,” he wrote. “We respectfully request that our proposal likewise be advanced.”
“We do not, however, believe that placing any proposal on the ballot at this particular time is good public policy, particularly given the City’s very recent receipt of this information and lack of public input and consideration,” Mr. Hodgson wrote. “The purpose and intent of the RFEI process are sound, and we believe it would be unwise to abandon it. It is unclear what purpose the RFEI served if the City disregards those submittals and elects instead to immediately place a project on the ballot with little public discussion.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mace 200 Developer Dan Ramos read from a June 17 letter to Interim City Manager Gene Rogers. Mr. Ramos read, “One issue which has emerged as we have proceeded is how to comply with Measure R which, as you know, currently requires a vote of approval by the electorate following City Council approval for a project such as the one we are contemplating.”
He added, “We certainly support Measure R.” He added, “I want to emphasize that.”
Mr. Ramos continued, “However, we would like the mandated vote to occur earlier in the process. Why? Because it waits until too late in the process for us, the landowner, to ascertain whether the community supports our proposal.”
He added, “The same is true for local innovation companies which are currently seeking expansion opportunities.”
To this end, he stated, “We would like to request that the City Council place on the November 2014 ballot a slight modification to Measure R which would allow the mandated vote to occur prior to City Council action as opposed to after that action. In addition, we would further request that the modification measure actually act as a means of allowing the electorate to vote on our proposal.”
The letter continued, “These actions together will facilitate citizen input while allowing us to learn early in the process whether there is communitywide support for our proposal. They will also help assure the timely and efficient review of the proposed project.”
Some of the early feedback we have received has been negative – the majority of the people we spoke to are willing to support some business park alternative, but not with Measure R revisions. In addition to concerns about creating assurances for the voters, there is a general belief that any attempt to circumvent or appearance of any attempt to circumvent the Measure R process would be treated with suspicion by the residents, some of whom may otherwise be inclined to support the innovation park.
During public comment, Tyler Schilling of Schilling Robotics spoke as to the urgency of the issue.
“I am very interested, based on the rapid growth of our business, in seeing a Measure R vote as early as practical because of the time pressure our business happens to be under,” Mr. Schilling stated. “I’ve always considered myself a futurist, but unfortunately I’m only able to see 15 to 30 minutes into the future and didn’t anticipate our business growing as rapidly as it has.”
He continued, “We’re going to need a sizable parcel to build a new facility and I would dearly love to be able to do it here in Davis.”
Mr. Ramos is proposing the following ballot question: “Shall Ordinance no. 2530, commonly known as Measure R, be amended, as set forth in Ordinance no. _ , to allow for voter approval for a innovation, research and business park not to exceed 230 acres in size and to be located east of Mace Blvd and north of Interstate 80, and which involves no residential development, and shall this measure be deemed to constitute that vote?”
—David M. Greenwald reporting