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In The News

Column: Just show us the money

By John Horgan
San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo County Times, 11/03/09

It doesn't take a visionary to stomp his foot and declare, "No way, pal — it's my way or the highway."

But that seems to be the illogical posture being considered these days by some members of the Menlo Park City Council.

A segment of that august body appears to be bent on opposing a major development in adjacent Redwood City out of hand.

Cargill, the owner of more than 1,400 acres of what has been wetlands and drying ponds for the production of salt, is the Menlo Park contingent's target. The company has come up with an ambitious plan to create what would amount to a whole new community, a sort of mini-Foster City or quasi-Redwood Shores, on its bayfront property. It's in the embryonic stage at this point.

Redwood City, in which the Cargill acreage is located east of Highway 101, has just begun to examine some of the details of the proposal. Nothing has been cast in stone — approvals for even preliminary construction have not been granted. There is ample time for debate and compromise.

So opposition from Menlo Park would appear to be jumping the gun. What's more, there is the not-so-minor matter of private property to consider.

Neither Redwood City nor Menlo Park owns the land in question. Cargill does. If some other entity, public or not, wants to force the company to abandon its salt-creation operation and return it to its natural state, it is more than welcome to pay for it.

Somehow, we doubt that Menlo Park, even if it were flush with cash, would leap at the opportunity to plunk down anything approaching fair market value for those 1,400-plus acres.

So it's really no sweat for a Menlo Park politician (or anyone else for that matter) to huff and puff about Cargill and its grand designs without any money on the table. It's something else again to find an attractive alternative and actually provide some lucre in the exchange.

Maybe someone, or some agency, eventually will come forward to transform all, or part, of that open space near the Port of Redwood City back into wetlands.

But, so far, such a financial angel has not stepped forward. If there's one living in Menlo Park, please sign in here. Cargill would love to hear from you. And the sooner, the better.


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