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In The News

City council votes to oppose Cargill development

By Shaun Bishop,
Daily News, 10/21/09

Menlo Park should consider taking a stand on the controversial proposal to build a massive development on the Cargill salt lands, even though the project is located in Redwood City, city council members said Tuesday.

The council voted 4-1 to place on a future council agenda a resolution opposing the Cargill project, which includes up to 12,000 homes on 1,436 acres of land just north of Menlo Park’s Bayfront Park.

Council members Andy Cohen and Kelly Fergusson proposed the resolution, which says in part that the proposal “seeks to reverse longstanding regional and local policies to protect the Bay and its wetlands.”

“I’ve come to the conclusion in my own mind that the Cargill project as proposed today would do irreparable harm to Menlo Park,” Fergusson said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I just feel like before this goes too far down the pike that we ought to take the temperature of the council on this.”

Cohen said the city shouldn’t have to wait for Redwood City’s process before making its position known.

“I think it’s good to have clear processes but it’s also good to find out what people think early on,” Cohen said.

The resolution comes even before Redwood City has begun studying the potential environmental impacts of the project, which also calls for 1 million square feet of office space, 50 sports fields and 436 acres of restored wetlands. Consultants for the city are currently determining whether the plans the company submitted in May are complete.

It would make Menlo Park the first local government to oppose the Cargill project, though city officials said the resolution could not be placed on a council agenda until January at the earliest. Environmental groups have called for the entire property to be restored to wetlands.

Council Member John Boyle was the dissenting vote on considering the resolution, which he called “premature.”

“We have to respect the process,” Boyle said. “We’re going to have plenty of opportunity to comment, appeal, even sue if we need to.”

Boyle said he also has concerns about the Cargill project, but suggested the council hold a study session to get more information about the project and write a letter to the city outlining its concerns.

“To take a position upfront, it just ... it makes no sense to me,” Boyle said.

But Mayor Heyward Robinson agreed with Cohen that “it is appropriate that we take positions early on things,” though he said he would also consider sending a letter to the city instead of a resolution.

“We really want to be respectful of (Redwood City’s) process and their ultimate decision-making authority and weigh in in a respectful way,” Robinson said.

Robinson and Vice Mayor Richard Cline both said they have strong concerns about various aspects of the project, including where its water will come from and its location at a time of rising sea levels.

Several residents backed the council’s resolution, saying it is appropriate for outside agencies to comment on the Cargill project because it will have regional impacts.

“The Bay should be for everyone,” said Elizabeth Lasensky, a member of the Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park, who said the development would be “incredibly detrimental” to wildlife at the park.


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