News - November 10, 2010

Woodside weighs in on Cargill development plan

by Dave Boyce

Life is unfolding as usual for the avocets, black legged stilts and brine shrimp that inhabit parts of the 1,486 acres of salt flats off Redwood City. Unfolding onshore are talks about the proposal by Minneapolis-based Cargill Salt and an Arizona-based developer to use this land for up to 12,000 homes, 1 million square feet of commercial space, and some 800 acres as wetlands and outdoor recreational space.

The Woodside Town Council received a summary update on the project at its Oct. 26 meeting. As planned, the project could dramatically affect traffic in and around Woodside, which sits between Redwood City and the coast. Effects on air quality and the water supply are also issues of local concern.

The Woodside council plans to submit formal comments ahead of the Feb. 28, 2011, deadline.

The council also heard from the public.

Every acre of restored marshland sequesters 1,900 pounds of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of 2,300 vehicle miles, said resident Elke Muller, adding that the proposal to import fresh water from Kern County for this development is "fanciful."

Resident Becky Stirn, a self-described advocate for business and development, said she opposes this project and that Woodside should, too. "I think leadership is very important and I think Woodside is right for the leadership," she said.

Ms. Stirn said the project developers are trying to redefine the salt flats as "solar collectors" to avoid oversight by outside agencies.

David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, which opposes the project, said the developers have called the site industrial, a nice piece of dirt, and "a factory without a roof."

No one from the project management was available to comment, but the "factory" wording appears in the minutes of a November 2006 meeting of the Redwood City Planning Commission, as do references to the project as the "Redwood City Industrial Saltworks."

The matter is far from decided. "We don't have a position, favorable or unfavorable, on the merits of this project," commission spokesman Malcolm Smith told The Almanac. "We're really trying to keep this as neutral as possible."


The public is invited to comment at a "scoping session" on the Cargill project, set for Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sandpiper Community Center, 797 Redwood Shores Parkway in Redwood City. At a scoping session, the public is asked to propose areas of environmental impact that should be included in an environmental impact stud\y. The Nov. 30 session will focus on water supply, waste water, and flooding.

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