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In The News

Saltworks project goes in for a trim
Developer says it will revise plan to allow former wetlands restoration

BONNIE ESLINGER - Daily News 5/4/12
 
The developer of the controversial Redwood City Saltworks project announced Thursday it will submit a revised plan that offers considerably more wetlands restoration than the original one.
 
“We have been working on a scaled-back project that provides for restoration of the majority of the site and restricts development to a portion of the property already reserved under the city’s general plan for future urban uses,” John Bruno, senior vice president of developer DMB, said in a written statement.
 
In May 2009, Arizona-based DMB Associates applied to build a 1,436acre mixed-use development on the Cargill salt flats. Its so-called “50/50” plan calls for as many as 12,000 homes, offices, shops and schools on half the site, and parks, recreation areas and restored tidal marshes on the other half.
 
But in November, the company withdrew the description of that proposal, citing a desire to make changes based on public feedback. City officials were told to expect a revision this spring.
 
DMB spokesman Jay Reed said that in Redwood City’s general plan, a portion of the Cargill property is designated “Urban Reserve,” which is defined as “Land to be preserved for future use to expand the limits of the urbanized area of the City.”
 
Reed said he doesn’t know how many of Cargill’s acres fall within that designation. The general plan’s land use map shows that the rectangular- shaped Urban Reserve takes up about two-fifths of the northern portion of Cargill’s site. The rest of Cargill’s property — including a portion that was proposed for development — is designated for preservation purposes, according to the general plan.
 
“I think we’re not suggesting we’ll take the entire Urban Reserve but a scaled back version would fit within that designation,” Reed said, adding that there’s no timeline on when the company will file a new application and project description.
 
Redwood City Acting Planning Manager Blake Lyon said the Urban Reserve designation has “some language that’s open for interpretation” because it doesn’t designate or prohibit any particular type of development.
 
The general plan does note that specific land use designations for the Urban Reserve areas “are to be withheld pending review of development plans and their environmental consequences.”
 
“The city was basically saying there’s additional analysis and consideration needed,” Lyons said. He declined to comment on what kind of approvals DMB would need to develop part of the Urban Reserve area because it has not submitted its reworked proposal.
 
But he pointed out a 1990 version of the general plan notes that a “particular concern” for the industrial salt site is “whether this area is considered ‘wetlands’ bythe Federal or State agencies, which would severely limit any future development.”
 
DMB’s announcement comes days before a scheduled city council discussion on the dormant Saltworks application. According to a memo for Monday’s council meeting, an ad-hoc committee made up of council members Jeff Ira and Barbara Pierce has recommended that the city reject the current application because DMB is not proceeding with it. The committee suggests leaving the option open to consider any future plans submitted by DMB for the Cargill site.
 
DMB says the council doesn’t have to reject its original application because the company is formally going to withdraw it.
 
“We believe it is important to make our intentions clear and to respect the City Council’s need for formal resolution on the 50/50 Balanced Plan,” Bruno said.
 
David Lewis, executive director of Oakland- based Save the Bay, said the council would be wise to just quit now and “recognize the massive opposition to development there.”

 

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