Aggie Research Center (formerly, Mace Ranch Innovation Center) on Tuesday’s Council Consent Calendar
By Roberta Millstein
Back in June, I noted that developers had asked the City to resume processing their application for a massive ~200 acre business park on prime farmland outside of (i.e., to the east of) the Mace Curve. Things were mostly quiet over the summer. Now, with a pair of items on the Tuesday City Council Consent Calendar, the City is moving forward on this application before the project has even been presented publicly.
The Council agenda notes, “All matters listed under the Consent Calendar are considered routine and non-controversial, require no discussion and are expected to have unanimous Council support and may be enacted by the Council in one motion in the form listed below” (emphasis added).
Item A on the Calendar concerning the so-called “Aggie Research Center” (or ARC; formerly Mace Ranch Innovation Center, or MRIC) authorizes “the City Manager to enter into a contract with Economic and Planning Services (EPS) to prepare an updated study of the market demand assumptions, the economic impact analysis, the fiscal impact analysis, and the financial feasibility analysis and public financing evaluation for the Aggie Research Campus.” Item E on the Calendar appoints a City Council subcommittee for the project (Partida/Carson).
Yet ARC proposal has not been presented to City (at least not publicly), its Commissions, or its citizens. The ARC proposal has been modified from the previous one – which was also not fully vetted (see link at the beginning of this article). Why is the City planning on moving forward with the proposal without discussion and public input?
The items themselves are confusing and confusingly presented. Item A initially appeared to me to be the more substantive one, yet it contains little information about the project itself. Furthermore, the Resolution included with the item notes that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was certified for the previous proposal and that “the Department of Community Development and Sustainability has determined that a [sic] update to the certified EIR is warranted prior to the project moving forward for entitlements.” But how does this EPS study relate to an updated EIR? The staff report does not make that clear.
And the issue of the EIR is crucial, especially with regard to traffic. Much has changed and is currently changing in the vicinity of this area: the Mace Mess south of I-80, the new hotel, the new Nugget properties, etc. Also, burrowing owls have been observed in the vicinity. A new or modified EIR that takes these factors into account could look very different. What’s going on with the EIR? The staff report is silent on that point.
As for Item E, that is where the 21-page not-vetted not-presented not-discussed project proposal appears. (Easily missed if, like me, you focused on Item A). It’s too much to summarize here (see the link above for Item E), but here are a few details.
It proposes 2,654,000 square feet of commercial uses, including office and R&D space, a hotel, a conference center, and ancillary retail; it also proposes housing in the form of 850 residential units. It also includes 4,340 parking spaces. Part of the adjacent City-owned 25 acres (“Mace 25”) purchased with open-space funds is proposed as an agricultural buffer.
Ultimately, the ARC proposal will be subject to a Measure R vote. But it is not getting off to a good start in terms of public engagement. Several years ago the disposition of the property to the north and the east (then called Mace 391, now Leland Ranch) was similarly placed on the Consent Calendar without discussion from the community. There was an uproar from the community, and the Council wisely backed down. Is history repeating itself?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Recall the West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC) project. Regardless of what one thought of that project, which ultimately passed its Measure R vote, no one could fault the developers for failing to publicly present and engage the community.
On Friday, I emailed the City Council, outlining some of my concerns and asking that item A (I hadn’t noticed item E at that point) be pulled from the Consent Calendar, so at least the decision to move forward on the ARC proposal would be broadcast more widely, and, hopefully, discussed a bit before a vote of the Council. A staff member emailed a long explanation back to me. That such an explanation was required should alone be an indication that these items need presentation and discussion.
The Council should, at a minimum, pull the item from the Consent Calendar. But really, it should not be putting the cart before the horse by moving forward on the ARC proposal before citizens have had a chance to hear presentations and give their input on it.