YOLO SUN OPINION COLUMN :
Continuing investigations and analyses by Yolo Sun, of circumstances related to the Rite-Aid store under construction at Main and East Streets, have further revealed the contours of strange arrangements between the City of Woodland and developer Paul Petrovich.
As reported by Yolo Sun on July 24, 2008 (The Downtown Gateway That Got Away), the City of Woodland has violated and abandoned a basic component of its Downtown Specific Plan by approving the design, if not the siting, of this new Rite-Aid store.
Now, Yolo Sun has discovered that this new Rite-Aid store is the means by which developer Paul Petrovich intends to legally satisfy the city’s requirement for reasonable mitigation of significant impacts and consequences upon the city’s central business district from his Gateway Project on the city’s outskirts (I-5 and C.R. 102).
On this peripheral site, originally approved for a potential auto-mall development with some associated retail land uses, Petrovich requested that the city allow him to install two large big-box stores (Costco and Super Target) and a long list of minor tenants.
Such a massive development of new retail land uses on the city’s edge tends to contribute to the persistence of areas of blight within the city’s core, according to land use planners. Thus, through development agreements the city attempts to obtain some nature of balance from such a project’s developer.
______ The Development Agreement ______
The development agreement for the Gateway Project allows Petrovich 78 months (six and a half years) from the occupancy date of a major tenant at this Project (Costco), to submit an application for a separate downtown project (or projects) with an eventual assessed value of $3,000,000, or else pay the city $1,030,000 in cash.
Such a development agreement was obviously intended to benefit Woodland’s downtown area. Instead, it has substantially injured the downtown because of the nature of development of this Rite-Aid store. How did this happen?
One explanation is that Petrovich was given an option to create a development project within the downtown area. The city might simply have negotiated an agreement for a straightforward cash payment as mitigation for his Gateway Project.
Allowing Petrovich such an option as developing another project within the downtown area, as direct mitigation for the Gateway Project, would seem to demand some manner of cogent conditions and robust oversight, specifying and ensuring within this development agreement the exact nature of benefit to be derived for the city, for the public interest.
This agreement, permitting Petrovich six and a half years to file an application for a downtown project, is clearly slanted very strongly to his advantage. It is an enormous, extravagant and unreasonable period of time. Under these terms, it might well have been eight or nine years from the date Costco opened until the intended mitigation effects of benefit were achieved. Of course, the actual result of this development agreement is that – injury – not benefit – has occurred to the downtown.
There exist multiple advantages for Petrovich within this development agreement. He is provided an opportunity to make additional profits, rather than compensate the city with mitigation. He is given a huge amount of time to perform and exercise this key option. Plus, Petrovich has received another gift from the city by its violation and abandonment of its Downtown Specific Plan, to best assist his chosen downtown project, this Rite-Aid store.
These matters comprise a blatant pattern of accommodation which can only be described as “lavish.” It’s almost as if Petrovich himself wrote this development agreement, and also knew that he could side-step any enforcement of the Downtown Specific Plan, thus effectively depriving the city of any durable benefits to offset the adverse impacts of his Gateway Project.
Potential advantages to the City by having a downtown project serve as mitigation within such a context are wholly contingent, entirely dependent upon the precise nature of such a project. To improperly manage a matter of such significance is unusually sloppy, precipitating a climate of public loss of confidence in the City – a crisis of policymaking of the Woodland City Council – as regards the downtown area.
Although Petrovich may not have purposefully intended to injure the city and its downtown area in particular, through his prowess in development negotiations, this development agreement and its results speak for themselves.
Apparently, as related to his scope of interest and adverse to the public interest, Petrovich is running Woodland City Hall.