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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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Public Records - Inscription on Red Road Sign on Sky Background.Catching up with my reading, I stumbled across a piece of news that falls into the man bites dog category. A newspaper, of all things, called last week for the California Public Records Act to be diluted, made less effective and therefore less useful to those with murky motivations.

It seems that the Carmel Pine Cone has become quite bothered by a steady stream of public records requests submitted to Carmel City Hall by someone calling himself Marshall Duncan. Whether that’s his real name is uncertain because the Pine Cone has been unable to contact anyone of that name, or presumably any other name, willing to admit to attempted abuse of the state’s public records law.

How bothered? The PC has written four or five stories on the subject and now has editorialized about it, complaining mightily that this Marshall Duncan has made the requests by email without even having to demonstrate that he lives in Carmel, that he has valid reasons for requesting information about all sorts of things or even that he is a human.

Something should be done, the Pine Cone opines with unusual vigor. Exactly what, it doesn’t say, while suggesting that information seekers be made to identify themselves and their intentions to the satisfaction of a panel of bureaucrats. The paper goes on to acknowledge the apparent futility of the effort because the state Legislature wouldn’t do what is necessary it anyway. Something to do with the sixties and environmental laws and people who address city councils.

“He could be a group of people committing a practical joke or vandalism,” the Pine Cone offered, referring to this Duncan fellow. “He could be someone whose sole motive is to take up everybody’s time and make the city spend money. Or he could be a computer program launched by a hacker to demonstrate his prowess with a keyboard and mouse.”

Could be.

Could be the work of a former City Hall employee, which is probably what the Pine Cone suspects, which is about the only explanation for the amount of energy the paper is expending in its effort to protect its readers from a potential surplus of information. Intriguing as all that is, though, the Pine Cone stumbles the slightest little bit when it writes that the Public Records Act “basically requires local government to give every document it has to anybody who asks for it.” Which, as most reporters learn early on, is not even close to true.

If the Public Records Act basically required local government to turn over every document it has, there would not be exemption after exemption written right into the law. Exemptions for trade secrets, personnel matters, health matters, matters of litigation and investigation, you name it. Exemptions for records of deliberative process, for drafts and other short-lived materials, for complaints and responses to complaints. For references to real estate or anything deemed overly personal. Ask Monterey County officials about it. They hire important and pricey lawyers just so they can send routine paperwork to them to create an attorney-client exemption.

If the Public Records Act was as broad as the PC describes, Monterey lawyer Michael Stamp might have had to make his fortune handling personal injury cases instead of public records appeals. If the Pine Cone’s description were true, many of our local politicians would be looking for work and some would likely be under indictment.

If the Pine Cone understood the law’s limitations it wouldn’t be so greatly concerned about Marshall Duncan’s clearly subversive intent but it doesn’t so it is.

“We think all laws should be enacted, and actually function, to benefit the people,” the newspaper tells us. “Unfortunately, many laws in California have the opposite effect, and just end up empowering a few individuals at everybody else’s expense.” To which we simply reply “Huh?”

We pledge to get more deeply into this, but for now our only suggestion is that if you file a public records request in Carmel, take your own boxes because supplies are limited.

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