by David M. Greenwald
Back in August the No on Measure B campaign raised the issue that “7 acres of Davis taxpayer funded open space land” was being “used by developers” to satisfy the development’s open space requirement. That statement was quickly amended to: “The Developer also proposes satisfying the City’s agricultural buffer requirement by encroaching on the Mace-25 Open Space purchased with taxpayer funds.”
The issue has now re-emerged with an op-ed by Samantha McCarthy appearing in the Sunday newspaper.
McCarthy raises the issue about “whether the developer and DISC will be allowed to use the 6.8 acres that are part of the Mace 25 for its required agricultural buffer will be decided at a future meeting — after the project has been voted on (and obviously approved or there would not be a future meeting).”
That part is accurate.
But then she adds: “The city and the developer both appear to consider this a done deal. Otherwise, why is the Mace 25 parcel shown on DISC project maps, including the one in ballot Measure B?”
She further writes: “Furthermore, eliminating the use of the Mace 25 acres requires a significant redesign of the project, which at an Open Space and Habitat Commission meeting this developer made clear he is not willing to do.”
And adds, “Despite the council’s assurances to the Measure O group that Mace 25 would not be considered for development, the developer’s proposal is still on the table to use 6.8 acres of Mace 25 to meet his mandated 150-foot-wide agricultural buffer.”
Wesley Sagewalker, who is part of the campaign consulting team, posts in response to the op-ed: “The discussion around DISC’s relationship to the Mace 25 is full of misstatements and exaggerations.”
The real problem is that, while it is true that the city has not committed to a course of action, it is also true that the development agreement itself solves the problem by preserving the land for agricultural uses regardless of future agreements.
From the June 30 CC staff report:
“A portion of the Ag Buffer was proposed to be located on the city’s property, known as Mace 25. There is no agreement on the project using a portion of Mace 25 as part of the agricultural buffer and the developer understands that they will be obligated to provide the buffer entirely on the DISC site if no agreement is reached in the future. The City is under no obligation to grant an easement on the Mace 25 for the project agricultural buffer. This is discussed in detail within Exhibit H of the Development Agreement.”
Page 70 of the development agreement lays out the issue as well: “At full buildout, Developer will establish an approximately 22.6 to 24-acre agricultural buffer separating the DISC from active agricultural operations depending on its final location and configuration. The agricultural buffer shall comply with dedication requirements outlined in the City Ordinance.”
Further, it notes: “The City has not granted said easement to the Developer nor does approval of Project entitlements or the effectuation of this Agreement in any way bind the City to grant the easement.”
The city goes on to note: “If pursued, the fair market value of the easement will be determined by a third-party appraisal with an appraiser approved by the City. Developer’s use of the easement area would be limited to those uses consistent with City Ordinance and the intent of Measure O.”
The agreement goes further: “The Mace 25 had previously been analyzed in the MRIC EIR for urbanization but, in the revised Project and Subsequent EIR, this parcel retains an agricultural land use designation and will not be developed with urban uses.”
Thus, this is not nearly as nefarious as some are making it out to be. First of all, as I will show in a moment, there is no presumed use. Second, if there is a use of this as an easement, the city will receive full compensation for it—and thus would presumably be able to use the sale of the project to purchase even more Measure O property to set aside for agricultural uses—and, finally, even if DISC does purchase the property, the Mace 25 has to remain for agricultural uses anyway and cannot be developed for urban uses. All that would happen is that the land could be used for an agricultural buffer and drainage.
But none of that has been agreed to.
Samantha McCarthy makes a similar point to Alan Pryor about the parcel map—questioning why, if there was no agreement between the city and DISC on the use of the property, it shows up on the parcel up.
Alan Pryor asked “why does the official resolution putting the measure on the ballot clearly show the ag buffer for the project on the City’s Mace-25 Open Space land.” At that time, he suggested, “I think the fix is already in.”
We looked into this issue in August.
As the map shows—and the city verified—the dashed lines are the property line. The agricultural buffer is on DISC property, not city property. And Mace 25 on that map is designated to remain existing agriculture. I see no fix here. They have simply included the parcel and its agricultural designation on the map.
It is true that the city has not made a final decision on the uses for Mace 25 or whether to grant the request for the easement. But even if they do, it appears that the city would be compensated and that Mace 25 would remain agricultural—and such a deal would actually expand rather than harm open space protection.
All told, this seems like a non-issue that the campaign and those opposing this project have churned up to alarm voters wanting to protect agricultural lands.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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