Almanac

News - June 30, 2010

Council opts for neutral ballot language

by Renee Batti

Although the majority of the Menlo Park City Council supports the proposed Bohannon development project, the council chose to remain neutral in approving language for the November ballot measure that seeks voter approval for the project.

The council voted June 22 on a slightly modified version of language crafted by City Attorney Bill McClure, who also offered an alternative that was far more promotional of the project.

Earlier this month, the council voted 4-1 to send the project, known as Menlo Gateway, to the ballot rather than approve it outright because of the likelihood that a grassroots referendum campaign would attempt to overturn the decision. Councilman John Boyle, who supports the project, opposed sending the question to the ballot, saying the council should decide the matter itself.

Voters will be asked to approve the Bohannon company's plan for three eight-story office buildings, a 230-room Marriott hotel, and a sports club, totaling nearly one million square feet of development on land near the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Marsh Road.

The discussion at last week's council meeting centered on the ballot language for the measure, and the method of writing arguments supporting the project. The alternative ballot language rejected by the council spoke of the project's potential to "generate new revenues for city services, create jobs and provide money for neighborhood and park improvements."

Several residents spoke at the meeting or wrote e-mails to the council urging members to support the neutral alternative, which merely stated the project's location and features.

The language of the neutral alternative was tweaked to include an opening phrase indicating that the council has given its support to the general plan amendment needed to green-light the project.

The council also agreed to appoint a subcommittee that will include Mayor Rich Cline to write arguments in favor of the ballot measure, and the rebuttal to the arguments against. Ballot arguments can have up to five signatories, and, at the urging of former mayor Gail Slocum, who supports the project, Mayor Cline will sign on behalf of the council, and four other people representing a broad range of interests will be asked to add their signatures.

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