It started Tuesday afternoon, as developer Dan Ramos emailed a letter to council stating, “Over the course of the last week, several members of the public have requested an extension of time in which to review and comment on the draft environmental impact report for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center.”
Mr. Ramos continued, “Recognizing that the environmental analysis is lengthy and that public participation is critically important to the CEQA review process, we would like to accommodate this request while still moving forward expeditiously.”
As such, Mr. Ramos’ agreement opened the door for the council to unanimously approve a 45-day extension to the local comment period, which doubles the time for Davis citizens to review the draft EIR.
Mike Webb, the city’s Community Development Director, said, “Given that the review period and schedule for analysis of the proposal is fairly compressed, the applicant is certainly and fully aware that any substantive of the comment period of the draft EIR would mean a June ballot measure would not be feasible.”
He added, “The applicant recognizes that and they are suggesting the extension nonetheless.”
During his comments to council, Dan Ramos acknowledged that the move would likely push the election from June 2016 back to November 2016.
He told council, “Public participation is crucial. Heard it loud and clear last week that (the draft EIR) is a big volume. We put a lot of resources behind that and we want to get it right. That’s what’s important – to have a great project for this community.”
Dan Ramos, in response to a question by Councilmember Brett Lee acknowledged, “It’s going to be very difficult to make that timeline as a reality… Anything is possible, we want to keep going as hard as we can to get there.” He would add, “We acknowledge it’s going to be very very difficult.” He went as far as to say, “We doubt it can happen.”
Brett Lee expressed concerns that, with Nishi still set to go forward in June, Mace may want to change its mind down the line in a few months. However, Dan Ramos responded, “That is your call from the city council and the staff, as to how you want to sequence the projects.”
He said, “It’s important that we don’t short-circuit public participation.”
Dan Ramos said that they believe a November vote is most likely, but also said that they don’t want to slip any further than a November election.
Elaine Roberts-Musser, during public comment, expressed concern: “If you wait and push off to the November election, would that affect Schilling’s (Robotics) decision to stay, remain, or go?” She also expressed concern, “Will the city lose momentum for the innovation parks by delaying again?”
Rochelle Swanson moved that the city grant a 45-day extension, ending on November 12. She added that they would not grant further extensions to the state or government agencies, as requested by the developers, and they would stick with the same guidelines.
She tried to apply the extension to any other proposals that came in with the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest), however, Harriet Steiner indicated that such a motion moved beyond the scope of what was agendized. She suggested that Councilmember Swanson could simply express her opinion about the general equity, but could not act on it.
Brett Lee responded, “I do not support delaying any other project based upon a single applicant’s desire to grant more time or have more time.” He said it was unfair to ask other applicants to slow down based on this applicant’s desire to extend public comment period.
However, Rochelle Swanson said that her motivation for granting the request had nothing to do with the desire expressed by Dan Ramos on behalf of his development team. Instead, she said, “My motivation for granting a 45-day extension is the community. I think they (Dan Ramos and company) were kind enough to support where people assumed we were going to go.”
Ms. Swanson continued, “This is about granting more time for our community to have more time. This isn’t an applicant asking for an extension of time for their needs.” She noted, if anything, this is against the applicant’s interest by losing, more likely than not, out on the earlier election.
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis stated, “I’m really uncomfortable going in this direction.” He added that large volumes of the EIR are technical tables and while there are reams, it’s fairly repetitious. “I don’t think it represents an indigestible document even for those who desire to read it.”
However, he said, “If the proponent is saying they’re willing and I understand they want to be good citizens and if people feel strongly that it’s unfair I can hear those arguments – they make me uncomfortable. Because I think we can continue to move things ahead.” He added, “I’ll support the motion with eyes wide open that we’re not going to achieve a June deadline – but with some concerns about what pushing it off will mean…”
Lucas Frerichs added, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” He said, “Providing more time for the public… is very important and in my opinion the right way for us to be going.”
Councilmember Swanson reiterated, “This isn’t just one of many delays. It really is that it is giving extra time for this large document but I would anticipate everything else stays on track.”
With that, the council voted unanimously to approve the extension to November 12.
—David M. Greenwald reporting