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BREAKING NEWS: Monterey Downs project on last legs

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Business people horse racingSomething to be particularly thankful about today: Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau has told the city of Seaside that he no longer wishes to proceed with the project as it was approved by the City Council earlier this month and that he won’t indemnify the city as required against potential litigation over the various approvals. As a result, city officials will ask the council on Thursday, Dec. 1 to rescind its approval and send the venture back to the Planning Commission for possible revisions.

Monterey Downs, under the recently changed name Monument Village, is the large housing and commercial development long proposed for a wooded site at Fort Ord. It originally was proposed to be anchored by a horse racing arena but opposition to that and other aspects of the venture caused the developer to downplay that feature, leaving some question about the direction and viability of the project.

Opposition has centered on the need to remove thousands of trees and the developer’s inability to demonstrate any sustainable water supply. The City Council approved the overall venture earlier this month on a 3-2 vote but the Nov. 8 election has changed the balance of power on the council, creating the very strong likelihood of a 3-2 vote against the project. LandWatch Monterey has launched a referendum against the project, which would prompt another council vote.

The information about the apparent collapse of the project is included in the agenda for the Dec. 1 council meeting,  posted late Wednesday and discovered by Molly Erickson, lawyer for the Keep Fort Ord Wild group. The agenda item follows in full:

TO: City Council

FROM: Craig Malin, City Manager
BY: Lesley Milton-Rerig, City Clerk
DATE: December 1, 2016

Item No.: 10.A.

SUBJECT: CONSIDERATION OF RESCISSION OF: 1) RESOLUTION NO. 16- 97 AMENDING THE SEASIDE GENERAL PLAN TO INCORPORATE THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN) ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2016; 2) ORDINANCE NO.1031 ADOPTING THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY REFERRED TO AS THE “MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN” ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016, AND 3) ORDINANCE NO. 1032 AMENDING TITLE 17 OF THE SEASIDE MUNICIPAL CODE AND THE OFFICIAL ZONING DISTRICT MAP (Z 12-02) TO INCLUDE THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY REFERRED TO AS THE “MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN”) ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016.

THE COUNCIL WILL ALSO CONSIDER DIRECTION TO STAFF TO TAKE ANY AND ALL ACTION NECESSARY TO EFFECTUATE THE RESCISSION OF THE PROJECT APPROVALS AND TO FURTHER REMAND THE MATTER TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION FOR POSSIBLE PROJECT REVISIONS AND FURTHER CONSIDERATION.

PURPOSE

The City Council, at meetings on November 10, 2016, and November 17, 2016, approved
amendments to the General Plan, adopted a Specific Plan, and adopted revisions to the City’s Municipal Code and official Zoning District Map for the proposed Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan (formerly known as the Monterey Downs and Monterey Horse Park and Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Specific Plan). The Project Applicant, Monterey Downs, LLC, informed the City on November 22, 2016, that they do not wish to proceed with the project as currently approved, and declined at this time to enter into an indemnification agreement as required by the approvals for the General Plan Amendment, Specific Plan, and Zone Text and Map Amendments. Therefore, the City Council will consider rescission of the approvals, direction to staff to effectuate that rescission, and remand the Project to the Planning Commission for consideration of further Project Revisions that Project Applicant may wish to propose.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the City Council take the following actions regarding the subject applications:

  1. Consider Rescission of Resolution No. 16-97 Amending the General Plan, Ordinance No. 1031 Adopting the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan, and Ordinance No. 1032 amending the Municipal Code and Official Zoning District Map.
  2. Consider Direction to staff to take necessary steps to effectuate rescission of the foregoing approvals
  3. Consider Remanding the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan project to the Planning Commission for consideration of possible project revisions as may be proposed by the Project Applicant.

BACKGROUND

There is no written report for this item. A verbal discussion will take place at the meeting.

FISCAL IMPACT

None.

ATTACHMENTS

None.

Meeting Date: December 1, 2016

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Business people horse racingEIR and plan details go to Seaside Planning Commission on Wednesday

Opponents of the Monterey Downs horse race track venture at Fort Ord may be on the verge of a huge victory with the Seaside city staff recommending that the associated commercial and residential elements of the sprawling project move ahead without provisions for actual racing.

Celebration seems premature, however, because nothing in the staff recommendation to the city Planning Commission would prevent the racing operation from being revived at some point after somewhat less controversial aspects had been approved. Debate over the entire project and especially the horse racing component are expected to play a real role in the upcoming municipal election, which features a mayoral contest between project proponent/incumbent Ralph Rubio and project opponent Kay Cline.

The staff recommendation amounts to a couple of brief, nearly cryptic mentions in a lengthy report presented to planning commissioners for a special meeting Wednesday at which they will be asked to approve the environmental impact report and the so-called specific plan for the development. Southern California horse racing figure Brian Boudreau proposes 1,280 homes and apartments and considerable other construction on 700-plus acres partly within Seaside city limits and partly in Monterey County’s jurisdiction.

While the project has enjoyed significant support from elected officials and some business interests, the developer hasn’t been able to point to a continuing water supply and has been slow to cover expenses stemming from the application process. The project also has created something of a local coalition of animal-rights activists and environmentalists concerned about the loss of tens of thousands of trees. Perhaps incidentally, the Monterey Downs website detailing and promoting the project was nowhere to be found on Monday

City Manager Craig Malin elaborated on the staff’s current thinking in an email exchange with the Partisan on Monday and in a recent blog post.

“The staff recommendation is premised on planning and land use concerns; principally that setting aside the acreage required for horse racing (track, infield, grandstands, associated structures and parking) without a clearly defined path to financing and construction of those facilities is, at this moment in time, difficult to position as a highest and best use of the land,” Malin said by email. “There is a clear and significant consolidation of the California horse racing industry underway, and the amount of money wagered on California horse racing is, adjusted for inflation, down nearly 40% from 2005 to 2015, according to annual reports published by the California Horse Racing Board.”

But yes, Malin acknowledged, the racing enterprise could be re-inserted into the plan at some point.

“…In both a conceptual and practical sense, horse racing is a legal business.  Conceptually, cities can’t generally prohibit legal businesses from operating in a community, particularly those that are as much creatures of state regulation as horse racing is.  Conceptually, horse racing could come to almost any city with infrastructure that exists (or may be constructed) to support it.  Practically speaking, should the project move forward, it would be very difficult to add horse racing back into the project if homes are sold without that use allowed within the first approvals.

“Keep in  mind, it is just a staff recommendation at this point.”

Malin spent most of his public sector career in other states and his comments seem to reflect a poor understanding of California zoning and environmental protection law. Cities can, in fact, prohibit legal businesses from opening if they are deemed to be in conflict with the zoning.

In his blog, Manifest, Malin wrote about a recent excursion with Boudreau to the Del Mar race track near San Diego, where Boudreau explained the wagering process and the manager soaked in the atmosphere.

“It was all quite lovely, and I could see how responsible, normal people could enjoy a day, or a season, at the racetrack,” he wrote. “I could see that Del Mar is a regional attraction, and community institution, with a long and storied history. I could also see how Del Mar, at its present scale and with its southern California zeitgeist, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be replicated exactly here in Seaside. But perhaps something smaller in scale, and something more Northern California in manner, could.”

City Councilman Jason Campbell, who opposed the project, said the staff recommendation “is politically expedient” because it would mute much of the project’s criticism while allowing the city to pursue other aspects of the development.

The issue goes to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Seaside City Hall.

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Potter, right, enjoys the support of fellow Supervisor and former Judge John Phillips

Dave Potter’s transformation is nearly complete. About all that’s left for him to do is change his registration.

Throughout his political career, Potter, the 5th District Monterey County supervisor, has been a Democrat and has enjoyed considerable support from the party and its spinoffs. This year, however, the best he could do endorsement-wise was a co-endorsement from the local party, which also endorsed his opponent in the June election, Mary Adams.

Adams, meanwhile, also received the endorsements of party-related groups that used to endorse Potter, such as the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Adams also picked up endorsements from the Monterey County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America and the Salinas Valley Democratic Club.

Demonstrating how far Potter has drifted away from the progressive crowd that once supported him, one of his latest mailers (SEE BELOW) includes lengthy endorsement messages from one of the GOP’s most outspoken local activists, Paul Bruno, and longtime Republican bigwig Jeff Davi.

Davi was California’s real estate commissioner under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger (though the mailer makes him out to be the current commissioner.) He is perhaps best known for his agency’s nearly complete failure to prosecute any real estate interests during the height of the mortgage crisis. Some will also remember that Davi was Potter’s opponent in his first campaign for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Bruno would have been a Ted Cruz delegate if his favored candidate had stayed in the presidential race. He says in the mailer that he is a fan of Potter’s as well because “for me, it is all about good government.” He goes on to say that Potter has “an impressive record on issues of importance to us – jobs, the economy and fiscal responsibility.” Look for specifics in the next mailer, perhaps.

Bruno, some will recall, is the fellow who dragged a chain out to a political demonstration on Highway 1. He was going to haul the protesters away until the CHP made him stop. He’s also the fellow whose company, Monterey Peninsula Engineering, seems to have a lock on Cal Am pipeline work.

Also pictured in the same flyer is Potter endorser Steve Bernal, the young sheriff of Monterey County, also a proud Republican.

In his campaigns of old, Potter touted endorsements from the Sierra Club, Democratic legislators Bill Monning and Mark Stone. Not this time. His flyers of old included kind words from LandWatch activists. Not this time.

Clearly the mailer featuring Bruno, Davi and Bernal was tailored to Republican households in the district – Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Big Sur and the Highway 68 corridor – so it makes sense that he emphasizes the economy and public safety rather than the environment and social issues. The big headline on the mailer, featuring a photo of Bixby Bridge, is “Bridging the divide,” but the mailer never goes on to explain what divide he means.

There is another mailer, of course, for Democratic households. In it, Potter is still in favor of attracting jobs and economic growth, but in this version he wants to do that “without threatening the quality of life that makes us unique.” (By omitting that caution from the GOP version, is he telling his Republican constituents that he’s OK with threatening the quality of life?)

In the GOP version, he’s all about growth and jobs. In the Democratic version, “He’s said no to bad development projects that poorly impact our water supply and traffic.” In the GOP version, he doesn’t mention the environment. Not at all.

In both versions, he lists a number of organizations endorsing him this time around. They include:

That last one is particularly interesting. Not unexpected, but interesting. The Salinas Valley Leadership Group was formed primarily by contractor Don Chapin. Its board of directors includes Brian Finegan, the Salinas lawyer who specializes in representing real estate developers; architect Peter Kasavan, who helped design the proposed Salinas general plan element that calls for Salinas to expand onto prime farmland; and accountant Warren Wayland, who handles campaign reporting duties for most Republican candidates in the area.

Dues-paying members of the SVLG include Monterey Downs racetrack principals Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, Salinas promoter and bar owner David Drew, Monterey PR man David Armanasco, the head of the deeply troubled Alco Water System, and the builder and developer of the Ferrini Ranch development that Potter voted against after it became clear that it would win county approval regardless of his vote.

Potter’s mailer to both Democrat and GOP households mentions his endorsements from law enforcement unions. Oddly enough, the mailers to Democratic homes includes blurbs from his endorsements by the Monterey County Weekly and the Herald, but those aren’t mentioned in the mailers sent to Republicans.

In the mailers to the Dems, Potter touts his endorsement by a group called Evolve California, which also endorsed Adams. He doesn’t mention Evolve in the GOP version, however. Perhaps that’s because in order to get the Evolve nod, he said he favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing property taxes for businesses. Potter’s making a big deal in this campaign about being the experienced candidate. What he’s demonstrating with his mailers is that he has plenty of experience tailoring his message to his audience, no matter what he really thinks.

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Supervisor started touting the project six years ago

Business people horse racingNow that Monterey Downs has emerged as a key issue in the 5th District supervisorial race, expect incumbent Dave Potter to try to duck challenger Mary Adams’ assertion that he is to blame for giving the troubled and troubling project a foothold in Monterey County.

Potter’s story, and he seems to be sticking to it, is that he merely made some introductions.  Potter was serving on the state Coastal Commission when he met Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau, who was seeking a coastal permit for a Southern California development. Potter was the swing vote in his favor and they hit it off. And that’s as far as it goes, according to Potter.

The record does not back him up, however, so let’s take a look at the early days as told through government records and news accounts:

June 15, 2010: Potter meets privately with Seaside Mayor Felix Bachofner and Seaside City Manager Ray Corpuz to talk about Monterey Downs. Source: Corpuz email.

Aug. 17, 2010:  Potter and his chief aide, Kathleen Lee, attend private meeting with Monterey Downs developers Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, discussing “critical paths” for the project. It appears that regular “Monterey Downs team meetings” commence, with Potter’s office in the loop/attending. No other county supervisor attends. Source: Journal entry by Lisa Brinton, Seaside’s Monterey Downs project manager.

Sept. 7, 2010: Potter aide Lee is kept in the loop on Monterey Downs project development actions. No other county supervisor is included. Source: email regarding TAMC-Ped Bike program.

Proprietor’s note: For those of you just tuning in, Monterey Downs is the proposed horse race track complex planned for Fort Ord. It would include housing, a hotel, other businesses and, according to the developer, various spaces for recreation, including an equestrian center, a swim center and more. Among the downsides is that it would require removal of tens of thousands of trees, it would need a considerable water supply that does not seem to exist and, well, it’s a horse race track with all that that entails. Fortunately for the opponents, developer Brian Boudreau appears to be struggling to finance the venture, as evidenced by repeated delays in the approval processes.

April 26, 2011:  Lee continues to be kept informed on project developments. Source: Monterey Downs team meeting email.

June 2011:  Potter and Boudreau travel to Ireland to attend wedding of William de Burgh, director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, whose brother is a leading horse breeder in Ireland. De Burgh is a backer of the Monterey Downs project. Source: Monterey Herald.

Aug. 3, 2011: Monterey Downs meeting at Potter’s office. No other supervisor attends. Source: Brinton journal entry.

Aug. 9, 2011:  Monterey Downs developers Boudreau and Palmer present the Monterey Downs project to the Board of Supervisors’ Fort Ord Committee. William de Burgh attends. Boudreau says half of all Monterey Downs employees will be brought in from outside the county. Boudreau says Potter had introduced him to Fort Ord. Potter says this is the first time he has seen the project in significant detail. Potter does not disclose his previous secret meetings with the developers, the meetings at his office, his advocacy for the project or his personal relationships with Boudreau and de Burgh. He also fails to disclose that had set up a private talk with the developers immediately following the public meeting. (Sources: meeting video, attendance records.)

Aug. 9, 2011: Private meeting with Boudreau and Palmer at Tarpy’s Roadhouse, set up by Potter using his county email and scheduling on his county calendar. FORA Executive Director Michael Houlemard invited. No confirmation of whether de Burgh attended. Source: Potter email.

Aug. 12, 2011: County Redevelopment Director Jim Cook invites Potter aide Lee to a Monterey Downs “team meeting.” No other supervisors’ staff invited. Source: Cook email.

Oct. 25, 2011: On county letterhead, Potter “as the Fifth District Supervisor and Chair of FORA” sends letter to Seaside Mayor Felix Bachofner expressing his support of Monterey Downs. Potter emphasizes that “the Monterey Downs project is unique” and says, “Please allow this letter to serve as my personal commitment to work diligently with you, City staff and County departments” on the Monterey Downs project. Potter points out his role is important because the project “will ultimately require policy direction from the Board of Supervisors.”

Potter writes, “It is important that the Monterey Downs team moves forward as expeditiously as possible” and “I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on this exciting project and should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.”

The letter is not distributed to the other four county supervisors.

Oct. 25, 2011: Potter again meets secretly with Seaside Mayor Bachofner and Seaside City Manager Corpuz to talk about Monterey Downs. Potter brings the county’s chief administrative officer, Lew Bauman, to the meeting. Potter emphasizes that he wants the Monterey Downs project to move forward and not be placed at “risk.” Corpuz promptly informs Seaside’s Monterey Downs project manager Brinton that “Potter made it very clear he would not accept a revised MOU with the project being wholly in the City because he [Potter] did not want to risk another vote by the Supervisors. [Potter] did say he would be willing to work on an MOU II, my phrase, after the City approves the current MOU. MOU II could include more specific items such as where the project is located.” Corpuz schedules a closed meeting of the City Council to discuss MontereyDowns on Nov. 3. Source: Corpus email.

Nov. 21, 2011: Monterey Downs project team, including Boudreau and Corpuz, meets to discuss the “Potter concern” about Monterey Downs “moving forward.” Source: Project manager Brinton journal entry.

Nov. 30, 2011:  County Redevelopment Director Jim Cook email regarding Monterey Downs consultant is sent to Lee at Potter’s office. Source: Cook email.

May 26, 2012: When questioned by the Herald about his involvement in the project, Potter responds that “all he had done was ask his friend [Boudreau] to lend a hand to the horse park organizers.” Potter also claims “he’s seen no formal proposal and is withholding judgment until he does.” Source: Monterey Herald.

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From Monterey Downs website

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Monterey Downs backers are trying to distort reality

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Plenty of people want the Monterey Downs site just the way it is

At the Monterey County League of Women Voters presentation on April 8, Beth Palmer, chief operating officer of Monterey Downs, stated that nobody wanted the land that Monterey Downs wants to develop, so Monterey Downs stepped up to fill that void. That’s nonsense unless “wanted” simply means “wanted to develop” such as Monterey Downs proposes.

In point of fact, 23 years ago, 11 local and national groups made the case for environmentally protecting the entire area south of Inter-Garrison Road, which includes the now-proposed Monterey Downs site. To be clear, these well-educated and insightful folks wanted the land protected from the type of development such as Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer are proposing.  As evidence, please review the “Fort Ord Parklands – a Vision Statement” completed in January 1992. Note that among the many groups that prepared and endorsed this report were the Sierra Club and the Native Plant Society, along with nine other influential non-profit groups. Highlighted in yellow are many sections of the report that are relevant to the controversy at hand. Here is one particularly significant paragraph from the introductory remarks.
 
“Fringing the 8,000 acre Impact Zone is a Recreational Land greenbelt buffer area, where recreational activities and trails are proposed. The Impact Zone is designated Open Space Land, where wildlife habitat and natural ecological processes should be allowed to continue uninterrupted. The entire coastal zone and the remaining inland area south of Intergarrison Road is (sic) designated Parks/Wildlife Preserve Lands to protect the unique Maritime Chaparral, Oak Woodlands and Native Grassland areas and high concentrations of rare and uncommon plants and animals. Fort Ord harbors the last large habitat tracts of vegetation that were once typical of the Monterey Peninsula. These lands support many threatened endemic species that are naturally restricted to the central coast region and found nowhere else in the world.”
 
If one reads this scientific report, at least the sections highlighted in yellow, it becomes obvious that Keep Fort Ord Wild and other environmentally concerned groups are just attempting to preserve the same undeveloped wilderness that the 1992 Fort Ord Parklands Group said should be preserved over 23 years ago!
 
Here is the mission statement of Keep Fort Ord Wild:
 
“Keep Fort Ord Wild is a community coalition dedicated to the preservation of trails, recreation, wildlife and habitat on Fort Ord. We support sensible, economically viable, redevelopment of the extensive blight within the urban footprint of the former base. We support conservation of existing undeveloped open space for the enjoyment of current and future generations.”
 
So, clearly, the land in question is not unwanted land. In fact many of us have been fighting for nearly five years now to convince the leaders and populace that this land has been ‘wanted’ for its true intrinsic value as stated so well in the ‘Preservation Goals’ at the conclusion of the Parklands report, and quoted below.
 
“When Fort Ord closes, the primary economic base for the Monterey Peninsula will be tourism, a clean industry well established in this splendid region. Although the large number and variety of hotels and resorts available to visitors provides a great attraction, it is the outstanding natural beauty of the open space landscape that draws most people to the area. It is economically sound to provide recreational opportunities that enhance the visitor experience, fulfill the recreational needs of the local resident community, and maintain the ecological integrity of the natural landscape.”
 
Let’s keep Fort Ord wild!

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. His commentary first appeared in the Monterey Herald.

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Business people horse racingIn case you missed it elsewhere, the Seaside City Council voted 4-1 Thursday night to give Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau another year to work on his sprawling project. Jason Campbell, who has been a consistent critic of the horse-racing/housing venture at Ford Ord, was the no vote.

At issue was the looming deadline on an agreement giving Boudreau exclusive rights to attempt to develop the property. He has struggled at times to pay project costs and to complete the environmental impact report.

While the city’s overall support for the project has weakened in light of strong community opposition, city leaders feared that Boudreau could have cause for legal action if they ended the project now.

The Partisan’s previous report.

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It’s time to pull the plug on Monterey Downs

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The Monterey Downs promotional website suggests this is what the promised arena might look like.

“Staff recommends approval.”

Those words are included in just about every staff report when a city council or board of supervisors is about to vote on a land-use project, especially a controversial project with lots of moving parts.

But what exactly does it mean?

Have the city manager or the planning director carefully considered the pros and cons,  studied the accessibility of water and other needs and come to an objective conclusion that the project should move ahead?

Or, as is much more likely in the case of the Monterey Downs venture, has the staff made a political decision to recommend approval in order to make it relatively easy for the city council to say yes to a shaky venture?

When those words go on the staff report, there is an implication that the staff has rendered a professional opinion that the project meets sound planning principles, is adequately capitalized and is being pursued by entities capable of pulling it off without leaving the taxpayers to finish the job. In actuality, what it usually means is that the staff has tested the political winds and is making the safe recommendation.

In the case of Monterey Downs, which returns to the Seaside City Council for another look Thursday, the staff’s stamp of approval should count for nothing. The issue before the council seems simple, almost innocuous. The politicians are being asked to extend the city’s negotiating agreement with the Monterey Downs folks. There might be no real harm in that if developer Brian Boudreau and his team had been making good progress. But on the environmental, financial and hydrological fronts, they seem to be going in reverse. The harm in extending the discussions is the loss of time and money that could be put toward more less problematic projects.

A quick story.

Years ago I was involved in a neighborhood dispute. A well-connected developer wanted to put a high rise in the middle of our residential neighborhood. We fought back and persuaded the council majority to vote our way. Without knowing that, the city manager and city attorney came out during a council meeting with a legal opinion favoring the development.

After the meeting, we told them how the vote was breaking down in the neighborhood’s favor. They were embarrassed and said they wished they’d known that before the meeting because their legal opinion would have gone the other way. It took another month to get the project killed.

Most of the time, the planning process would be much improved if the staff wasn’t expected to weigh in with a recommendation either way. Especially in the early stages, before the governing body has made the policy decisions, the staff should not be placed in an advocacy role.

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We’ll all be swimming up a storm once Monterey Downs is completed

There are times when government staffs do recommend denial, but it almost never happens if the applicant has any political juice at all. Boudreau has lost some of his influence as this project has dragged on. Repeated delays and inability to explain where the water comes from can do that to a fellow. But he started with enough of it to keep a seriously flawed project on life support for too long already.

You already know the basics. The project would feature a horse racing track at Fort Ord, surrounded by homes, hotels and various other facilities, most of them intended to attract community support. Here’s their thinking. If we say there will be an aquatics complex, the swimming community will rally behind us. If we say there will be softball fields, or soccer fields or whatever, there are those who will believe it and come out in support.

There likely will be some folks at the meeting Thursday, 7 p.m. at City Hall, to argue for the project, to say that it will provide lots of jobs, etc., etc. There likely will be a simultaneous effort to make this seem like a contest between working-class minorities and elitist environmentalists. But watch closely and you should be able to tell that at least some of those supposedly on the working-class side will have been organized and schooled by people working directly or indirectly for Boudreau.

Boudreau has had plenty of time to get his act together. It’s time for the city to move onto something real no matter what the staff recommends.

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Big News ConceptA couple of long years ago while I was editor of the Monterey Herald, there was some pressure on the newspaper to endorse the proposed Monterey Downs horse track/housing/hotel complex on Seaside’s portion of former Fort Ord property. I opined internally that significant development projects should not be considered for endorsement until they have been subjected to the formal environmental impact process. How can you proclaim that a project is worthwhile when full nature of its impacts is unknown? I was outvoted, however, so endorse we did.

Now many months later the environmental impact report for Monterey Downs has become the “long-delayed environmental impact report for Monterey Downs,” and a column in the Monterey County Weekly today tells us why. I’ll summarize it, but you should read it yourself.

It seems that a bureaucratic mistake led to the accidental release of a letter to the city by a firm that had been hired to review the environmental impact study. It found, as many others have argued, that there is no adequate water supply for Monterey Downs. Not now and not in the foreseeable future.

The bottom line, and this is from lawyers working for the city and not for LandWatch or anyone else, is this: “The EIR acknowledges that the project does not have sufficient water supplies to serve all phases of the development. The EIR should include a statement that the project has a potentially significant impact on water supplies without mitigation,”

So read it and weep, developers Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer. Read it and weep those of you who mounted a dishonest but successful campaign to ward off a citizens’ initiative that would have stopped this unsustainable project many months and dollars ago. The truth was the truth before this paperwork got out, but it becomes so much harder for the truth to be bent when it is right there for everyone to see.

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