Members of the Davis Planning Commission,
I write to you tonight both as an owner of Davis commercial property and as a local Davis business owner.
Over the past several days, it has come to my attention that developers of the Cannery Project have submitted formal request, Item 6b of tonight’s Agenda, for modifications to the basic terms of their development agreement as it pertains to certain commercial buildings located in the Neighborhood Mixed Use Center – East.
This project was originally approved by City Council in December of 2013, at which time the applicants had applied for construction of a series of commercial building with a maximum single occupancy of 15,000 SF. Yet tonight, with the project not yet out of the ground, the developer is before you tonight requesting an increase to 27,000 SF (an 80% increase in the maximum allowed size) to accommodate potential anchor tenants.
Earlier this week, Eric Roe, in speaking for the Davis Small Builders Group concerning provisions of a development covenant that would set aside 30 lots for custom homes built by local builders, addressed an issue with similar ramifications for local business and property owners when he wrote: “This is an Agreement that was reached with the understanding that the local Small Builder community would support your project during the City approval process and we expect you to honor our agreement.”
So too, we, as a small, local businesses, and owners of other local commercial properties with many small business tenants, would ask no less with respect to honoring the original terms of the development agreement to which the developer is signatory. In similar fashion to the representations made to the Small Builders group, and in order to gain a larger base of support, the original development agreement contained very specific conditions including limits on the size of any new food markets or drug stores at the center and for all other categories of retail, limiting the maximum overall size of any single retail store to 15,000 SF.
We are all business people and we understand that businesses change and conditions change, but a project development agreement, and the terms around which it gains approval, should not merely be considered as a temporary placeholder – with the full picture and the true story only to be revealed once the dust has settled and the approvals obtained.
There are always risks to any new project and nobody wants a project to be unsuccessful. But there needs to be some reasonable balance in the process – or otherwise risk invalidating the integrity of the process. In stark contrast to the present situation, it wasn’t until some five years after completion of their original Target buildout that the Ramos Company – in a very open, engaged, deliberate and lengthy process – came back to the community seeking request for modifications to the terms of their original development covenants. Following that approach, particularly the outreach and engagement components, the community proved to be very accepting of the request.
In this instance, the proposed new space could be earmarked for soft goods, home improvement, sporting goods, electronics, new work out and exercise facilities, or a host of other businesses – the point is that in each case there will be impacts, impacts on other local businesses, property owners and even other tenants within the same center. For example, it’s not too hard to imagine the parking impacts of a new 25,000-27,000 SF workout center in a development of this size.
Developers seek certainty, business owners seek certainty. If the development review and approval process cannot be relied upon as a reliable tool of enforcement, then of what value is the agreement? If it should turn out to be that easy to obtain the types of changes we see before you tonight, then how can we have any faith in the integrity of future development agreements that come before in the future. Rewarding bad behavior only encourages more of the same.
As one of the most consistent and most outspoken supporters of the Cannery Project from its earliest days, it is with great sadness and disappointment that I cannot support the developer’s current request for modifications to the Neighborhood Mixed Use (East Side) component. As such, I am requesting the Davis Planning Commission to withhold its approval for Items 6A and 6B of the Planning Commission Agenda.