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In The News

Cargill site taken off general plan
Council embarks on separate effort to determine fate of salt flats

By Shaun Bishop
Daily News Staff Writer
San Mateo Daily News, 1/28/09

Redwood City will plot out the future of the controversial Cargill salt flats in dependent of its effort to produce a new general plan by this fall, the city council decided this week.

The council voted unanimously Monday to launch a separate effort to determine what should be done with the 1,433-acre property, which has been at the center of an intense debate over whether it should be developed or restored.

By excluding the Cargill land, council members said they hoped to avoid delays to the general plan, a broad planning document that designates a particular land use for every parcel in the city.

“We’re so far from consensus, I don’t see it happening yet,” said Council Member Diane Howard. “I don’t believe we can do Cargill and the general plan both at the same time.”

Council Member Jim Hartnett said the city should not let one property dominate discussion of a plan that affects the entire city. “I just don’t think the Cargill land should be the tail wagging the dog,” Hartnett said.

City staff also said they were concerned that delays to the general plan could prevent the city from submitting a state-required housing plan by July 1.

The city launched its effort to draft a new general plan last January with the hiring of a $1.5 million consultant team. The last time its general plan was updated was 1990.

Cargill’s developer, DMB Associates, has said it intends to reveal its plans for the site in the next few months, though they are expected to contain a significant amount of housing.

It is not yet clear how the city will eventually address the Cargill land, but it will likely put it aside for at least a few months. Senior Planner Tom Passanisi said the entire focus of the general plan team will be on finishing the rest of the document.

Last year, environmentalist groups backed a ballot initiative that would have required two-thirds of voters to approve any development on open space land, including the Cargill site. They said Measure W would help protect the property from inappropriate development, but the measure was defeated by a wide margin on the November ballot.

When Measure W was proposed, Mayor Rosanne Foust said it was “hijacking the community input” on the Cargill site, which she said should happen through the general plan process. But she agreed Monday with her colleagues that it should be separated.

Steven Knight, the political director for Save the Bay, which backed Measure W, argued Monday that the Cargill site should be left in the general plan process, saying his group and many residents prefer an existing proposal that would leave the land as open space.

E-mail Shaun Bishop at sbishop@dailynewsgroup.com.

 

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