Sunday, February 22, 2009

Council approves stiff resolution on Seeno project application

After community comments from many citizens and long discussions and negotiations between Council members, the City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 17 to approve a revised resolution which rescinded their previous Nov. 18 denial of the Seeno project application and set many stiff requirements that must be adhered to in order for a new project plan to be developed and eventually approved. The resolution requirements, which will put the city and community in charge of the project visioning and planning process, include provisions such as a Project Manager, a Citizen's Oversight Committee, a community-based Specific Plan process, a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report, and a legally binding Development Agreement between the developer and the City. The costs associated with all of these provisions will be funded by the developer.

It also calls for a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the developer and the School District to ensure that the District's health and safety concerns relating to Semple School will be adequately addressed and protected, and to compensate the District for attorney fees that they incurred as they sought expert advice on how to protect their interests. This issue of the MOU with the School District was not resolved at the Feb. 17 Council meeting and negotiations are continuing, due to the fact that Mr. Seeno balked at paying more than twenty percent of the District's attorney fees.

Assuming that the School District and Mr. Seeno are able to arrive at a mutual agreement on an MOU, the next step will be for the City to initiate a public process for the selection of a Project Manager, and for the City Council to appoint a Citizen's Oversight Panel. The Oversight Panel and the Project Manager would then work together to interview and select a professional consulting firm which would conduct the community-based Specific Plan visioning process and the Subsequent EIR.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

After community workshop on Seeno project, Council votes to rescind denial vote

On January 7, 2009, the City held a community workshop at Mary Farmer Elementary School to discuss the elements in Albert Seeno's Nov. 24 proposed Agreement Letter and to give community members a chance to express their concerns and their wishes for the Benicia Business Park development. All the community comments were recorded on a Wall Board and later summarized in a brief report.

To view an image of the Wall Board comments, click here.

To view the Summary Report, click here.

On January 23, Mr. Seeno submitted a revised Agreement Letter addressing some of the concerns heard at the community workshop.



[Here is Mayor Patterson's Feb. 2 Commentary on the proposed Seeno Agreement]

Dear Reader,

Your attendance and attention is very much needed for Tuesday's council meeting at which the council will consider rescinding its "no" vote on the Seeno Project.

The Seeno Corporation has taken important steps to keep its current application active. A vote of this council to rescind its November 18, 2008 “no” vote on the current project would keep the application active.

We have some common ground in the community about the development of the Seeno site. It is fair to say that there is agreement on a project that provides jobs for a progressive green economy with clean tech and green tech research and development, a training center and possibly manufacturing.

We agree that the quality of life for our residents should be protected and enhanced. We do not want to degrade neighborhoods and Semple school environment, especially air quality, for economic gain.

There are two paths we can take: one path is the one begun after the “no” vote in November. At the November 18th meeting, staff was directed to propose options to the council for moving forward with a specific plan process. That path is still available and is preferred by me for several reasons.

The other path is the Agreement letter – the item on the agenda for Tuesday, February 3rd. Let me be clear that there is nothing in this Agreement that the city could not do without the agreement. This agreement has been advocated by some because a) the developer would stay at the table, b) the development may qualify for the federal "stimulus package". On both counts there is little substance. First, the developer is at the table. They own the land. Second the stimulus package is actually small for the whole country and we are not nearly as ready or needy to qualify in a very competitive era.

I do note the progress that has been made since 2002 whereby Seeno at long last agrees to a Specific Plan, and subsequent EIR to evaluate a future project in context of AB 32, and SB 375 as well as air quality, traffic impacts – including East 2nd below the freeway and potential urban blight for our downtown and impacts to Semple school and neighborhoods.

But more work needs to be done to make this agreement the kind of document our citizens can feel confidence and trust in - in us - your elected representatives - the city and ultimately the developer.



At the February 3 City Council meeting, the Council voted their intent to rescind their previous denial vote on the Seeno project (the vote was 4-1 with Mayor Patterson voting no). But their vote did not mean they were agreeing to the terms of Mr. Seeno's January 23 Agreement letter. Instead, they instructed the City Attorney to prepare a resolution for the Feb. 17 Council meeting which would include all the language changes and additional elements that were raised at the Feb. 3 Council meeting by members of the public, and by Mayor Patterson's revisions to Mr. Seeno's Jan. 23 letter. It remains to be seen whether the Council will be able to agree on the terms of the Resolution that is brought forward on Feb. 17, and whether Mr. Seeno will agree to it.