Scope of environmental review is in play.
The period for commenting on the scope of the environmental review of the Mace business park, dubbed “Aggie Research Campus” (formerly Mace Ranch Innovation Center, or MRIC), a proposal to build a ~200 acre project on prime farmland outside the Mace curve, has been extended until December 9.
Edit added Wed, 9 AM: We have learned from Ashley Feeney, Assistant City manager, that there is another change to the previously scheduled meeting Monday Dec 2 meeting, discussed below. Instead of being a pure open house, "the planning consultant will be making a brief presentation at the beginning [of the] meeting on Monday further explaining the supplemental EIR scope and process. They will be available to explain process and answer questions throughout the meeting as well. The applicant will also have representatives there to answer questions about the project."
Here is some of the backstory and explanation about the comment process.
At that time, the City Manager indicated that yes, there would be a scoping meeting, although that appears to have not been part of the City’s original plan, and it was not in the proposed timeline included with the Consent item.
On November 15, the City released the NOP, available online here. It was emailed to some citizens (although it is not clear how the City decided who should receive the email, and some relevant commissions, such as the Open Space and Habitat Commission, did not receive the email) and printed in the Davis Enterprise. The Davisite also published the announcement on November 17.
The NOP announced that the scoping meeting would be held this coming Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, December 2, from 5-7 PM, in the Davis City Hall Conference Room, 23 Russell Blvd., i.e., the conference room next to the Community Chambers.
This past Sunday, November 24, Colin Walsh and Rik Keller noticed that the only mechanism for providing comment mentioned in the NOP was at the December 2 meeting. In other words, if someone couldn’t attend the meeting, but wanted to provide written comment, no way of doing that was described. Or, if someone attended the meeting to learn more, and then later wanted to provide written comment afterward, again, no way of doing that was mentioned. It was unclear if comments after the meeting would even be accepted.
The City’s plan limited the amount of public comment that it could receive from citizens, intentionally or accidentally. A quick search showed that it was at least not unheard of for NOPs for SEIRs to allow for written comments to be submitted before and after the meeting; e.g. this one allows for 30 days, with the scoping meeting occurring during that time period.
Upon realizing the problem, Walsh and Keller immediately emailed City staff. After a few back and forths and delays, 2 days later, they were told the following (this information is now up on the City’s website as well, here):
As an additional effort to provide ample opportunities for public engagement and input, City staff will not only hold the voluntary scoping meting [sic] but will also extend the period to accept written comments from public agencies and the general public that are interested in providing input as to the scope and content of the supplemental environmental information to Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.
Comments can be provided in person at the December 2, 2019 scoping meeting or written scoping comments can be delivered to the City of Davis Community Development and Sustainability Department, 23 Russell Boulevard, Suite 2 Davis, CA 95616 Attn: Sherri Metzker, Principal Planner or via electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org up until Monday, December 9, 2019 at 5:00 PM.
[emphasis added in both quotes]
It seems clear that without citizen input, there would never have been a scoping meeting planned, and that without citizen input, the opportunities to provide input into that process would have been severely limited.
As stated in the following excerpts from The CEQA Deskbook (3rd Edition, 2013, Solano Press):
Scoping helps to identify the range of actions, alternatives, environmental effects, methods of assessment, and mitigation measures to be analyzed in depth and eliminates from detailed study those issues that are not important to the decision-making (p. 116).
Scoping is one of the methods lead agencies use to identify the key issues to be examined in the EIR (p. 119).
All Davisites interested in the project and a thorough, careful environmental review of the proposal are encouraged to comment on the aspects of the project that need environmental study, focusing on changed circumstances or changes to the project proposal (i.e., changes since MRIC) that are relevant to environmental impacts of the project.
- Traffic from more than 4300 parking spaces
- A Mace mess both south and north of I-80
- Traffic jams on I-80 itself
- Problems with the RR crossing and biking on Road 32A (where two entrances to the business park would be)
- Several large projects under construction inside the Mace curve, just opposite this proposed ARC project outside the curve
- The vague project description
- The addition of single family homes and a hotel as part of the proposal
- Possible increased burrowing owl activity on the site
There is much to be discussed and much to be addressed in the SEIR.