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Editorial: Finally, a deal on Derry

Original post made on Jun 12, 2007

About a month ago, we castigated the Menlo Park City Council in this space for its failure to embrace dense housing projects downtown, despite the "green" aspirations espoused by the city's Green Ribbon Task Force.

Read the full story here Web Link

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Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Opponents of the Derry project said the project was too big, had too many impacts, failed to conform to the zoning code, and they said the public got too little public benefit for the density bonuses granted to the developer. Derry advocates said the project provides an attractive and much needed housing project, in an ideal location near the train station, and will help revitalized downtown.

Unfortunately the referendum forced Menlo Park onto a risky, uncertain, and possibly divisive path that would produce all or nothing.

Under the law, the city council must put the initial project to ballot, where it could be accepted or rejected by voters. Or the city council must rescind the ordinances, thereby denying the initial project. A new similar, project could not be proposed for a year.

The Derry settlement agreement, a private settlement between private parties, offers the city a third alternative to the "all or nothing" path forced by the referendum.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the developer agrees to propose a new project, consistent with the terms of the agreement, provided the city approves the new project when it rescinds the initial approvals. By rescinding the initial approvals, the City would comply with the referendum. By doing so while approving the modified project, the City would make it easier for the developer to accept rescinding the initial approvals. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the leaders of the referendum will actively support the modified project.

Here are the choices:

1.) Put the initial project to ballot for approval or denial, (all or nothing)
2.) Rescind the new ordinances and hence the project and wait a year for a new project.
3.) Rescind the new ordinances while adopting the modified project.

Be aware that each of these outcomes has risk, but I believe the negotiated project reduces risk and uncertainty substantially.

The intent of the negotiated option is to provide an alternative project, one that eliminates ballot risk and project delay for both the city and the developer, and still contains as many of the initial project benefits as possible, with enough modifications to satisfy most petition signers. How well Morris Brown did in representing the interests of those who signed the referendum petition remains to be seen in the responses of those who signed the petitions.

Once the modified project application is submitted, it most go through the normal public approval process. It's up to the public and the city council to determine whether it was worth the wait.

And finally, let's be clear. The Derry negotiation team was not negotiating for the city, nor were city council members directly involved in any way. Negotiators signed non-disclosure agreements that quarantined details from all non-negotiating parties. The reason was simple, the developer and the referendum group aren't exactly lovers. If every time an impasse was reached, non-amicable parties were allowed to secretly lobby city council members to get their way, negotiations would quickly break down.

I urge you to consider this negotiated alternative. I support it. I hope you will too.


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