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In The News

Tale of two ticked off towns

Redwood City council members angry with possible stance on Cargill project

By Shaun Bishop
The Daily News, 10/24/09

A resolution to be considered by the Menlo Park City Council condemning a proposal to develop Cargill’s salt flats is “totally inappropriate” and “shows a lack of vision,” Redwood City council members say.

“Frankly I think it’s a joke,” Council Member Jim Hartnett said. “I think what they’re doing is what they were telling their citizens nobody should ever do, and that’s you shouldn’t make a decision until you have sufficient information on something.

“I think it shows a lack of imagination, a lack of vision, and certainly a lack of any kind of due process,” he added.

Menlo Park waded into the land-use debate this week when the city council agreed to vote soon on a draft resolution opposing Cargill and DMB Associates’ plans to build as many as 12,000 homes on a 1,436-acre Baylands site that for a century had been harvested for salt. The resolution calls for the land to be restored and designated as part of a wildlife refuge.

The project site is within Redwood City’s borders but just north of Menlo Park’s Bayfront Park, close enough for Menlo Park council members Kelly Fergusson and Andy Cohen to propose their city take a stand. Cargill and DMB Associates submitted the plans in May.

The Menlo Park council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to place the resolution on a council agenda early next year for a formal vote.

On Friday, Redwood City council members told The Daily News that their neighbors’ potential opposition would be premature, given that Redwood City has not even determined Cargill’s application is complete, let alone gathered public input or studied its potential environmental impacts.

Mayor Rosanne Foust said Menlo Park’s opposition to another city’s project so early in the process is “totally inappropriate, and I think it sets a terrible precedent.

“When you start doing things like this resolution, it’s like changing the rules of the game in the middle,” Foust said. “I feel like they need to ask themselves the question, how would they feel if Redwood City passed a resolution, or Portola Valley or East Palo Alto, about a project of theirs? Kelly and Andy wouldn’t like it.”

Menlo Park’s draft resolution emphasizes the importance of protecting wetlands near the Bay, and says the Cargill proposal could have “adverse impacts” on Menlo Park. Council members at Tuesday’s meeting raised concerns about the project’s impact on water supply and its location at a time of rising sea levels.

Redwood City officials said Menlo Park is within its rights to speak out about the issue, but it makes little sense to take a stand with so little information available.

“If they want to say, ‘We don’t think any part of that area should be developed for any purpose, no matter what the proposal,’ that’s one thing. That’s a matter of philosophy,” Hartnett said. “If they want to comment on a particular application and say, ‘Well, this answer and that answer is not yet found,’ it’s way premature to make any kind of determination on that.”

It would be “very helpful “ if Menlo Park wants to weigh in during the review process, but a resolution now is “way too early” and “just politicizes it,” said Council Member Barbara Pierce.

“I think they’ve got the right to do that if they want to, because I’m sure they will be impacted by any potential development that may or may not take place there,” Council Member Ian Bain said. “What I would urge them to do is proceed cautiously like we are.”



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