A very busy and active week.
- Congratulations to Winters Fire Chief Brad Lopez on his official appointment and swearing in. Winters Fire has probably the strongest team in its history led by Chief Lopez now coordinating Administration and Operations, Captain Art Mendoza who oversees prevention and is the Fire Marshall and Captain Matt Schechla who oversees Facilities, Training and Medical Operations. Their leadership is amazing and our public safety has never been stronger.
- The street lights in the roundabout are taking a beating! We lost the second one from someone missing a turn and driving up onto the sidewalk. The jinx on the situation is that we had on that very day received the replacement for the other light taken out about a month ago.
- Staff met with Yolo County representatives to discuss fire issues at Hay Kingdom. The fires over the past few weeks have created issues which need to be remedied. I think I speak for a lot of folks who agree that the City routinely smelling like a bad ashtray.
- Staff has been working with the Downtown Property Owners and businesses on a project to consolidate their trash operations into a single location to beautify the Newt’s Expressway Alley and begin the Alley Activation Master Plan. The merchants have brought a request to locate the trash enclosure on the new parking lot location on First Street and the alley (which would take out a couple parking spaces) This will come before the City Council on April 16 2019 for a decision on the location of the enclosure.
We had a very busy City Council Meeting with public input regarding concerns on development, planning and annexation which are related to a possible request for a Specific Planning Process for the most northerly properties in the City. Lots of issues and questions came up, so I thought it might be beneficial to clarify some things and answer some of the questions directly.
- What proposals have been received by the City from the property owners and what is their request from the City?
The representatives from Bellvue North who owns the majority of the property in the north part of the City’s planning area have not submitted any plans or official requests to the City as of today. Staff has been in discussions with them regarding the potential for a long range Specific Plan for their property. Discussions have predominantly focused on the area where the planning would occur, the process and scope of the work which would be undertaken, reimbursement of costs incurred by the City to be paid by the applicant and the need for extensive public engagement, environmental review and planning.
Staff has specifically told Bellvue North that any specific plan must include a planning process which includes all land both inside the City Limits and within the current planning area which are outside the limits which would need to be annexed. We put it on Bellvue North to work with the remaining property owners (there are three others) to participate in the planning effort, which they have said they have done. The reason for including the remaining properties if so the final plan will have complete continuity for the entire area.
- What land are we talking about, how much is in the current City limits, how much is in the planning area, how much land would be annexed?
A simple geographic reference and roughly speaking it is for the properties located just north of Niemann Street and Moody Slough (not including those properties on Niemann). Bellvue North owns 183 acres which are currently within the City limits, 210 acres which are within the City’s planning area but not in the City limits (the acreage which would need to be annexed) for a total of 393 acres. There are approximately 130 acres owned by other property owners which are in the planning area but not in the limits which are owned by others (and would need to be annexed at a later time). In conversations with Bellvue North, they have discussed the idea of possibly expanding the City’s planning area by approximately 270 acres on additional land they own north of the City’s General Plan area. They have also suggested they are interested in establishing a 480 acre agricultural mitigation area just north of the City.
The numbers included here are directly from the Bellvue North. In meetings, they have shown maps and photo’s but not submitted or given anything for the City to keep. I would venture to guess that over the years, we have seen no fewer than 6 versions, all different with very little specificity on ultimate land uses.
- Has the City Staff and City Council been meeting with the north area property owners and what has been the context of those conversations?
Yes. Over the years, we have met with representatives of Bellvue North, their owner Greg Hostetler, their engineers and environmental consultants on numerous occasions regarding multiple topics including flood control and drainage, Moody Slough, the prospect of creating public access for bike and walking trails, water, wastewater re-use, environmental projects, economic development opportunities and planning. In total (both in and out of the City) they own literally thousands of acres and are a major land concern so without question, Staff talks with them.
As Staff discussions with Bellvue North moved toward the potential for a request coming to the City, their representative, Jeff Roberts requested to meet with the City Council Members in February for an opportunity to introduce himself, talk about the prospects of a specific planning process and the overall process for public engagement, plan development and environmental review. The Council Members met individually(so as to avoid a violation of the Brown Act) with Mr. Roberts, he brought in some large photo’s of the properties and talked about the concept of the specific plan, possible expansion of the planning area and agricultural mitigation area. Staff (me) sat in on each meeting to assure continuity of information delivered to the Council and to answer any questions or provide clarification on issues which might arise, especially on process. One City Council Member met with Mr. Roberts on a second occasion and Staff participated in that meeting also.
In the past, Mr Roberts has inquired about the prospect of submitting a subdivision map for the 183 acres already in the City limits for development (which they can do at any time). Staff has suggested that a more comprehensive planning effort, such as a specific plan would be more beneficial to the City. The logic behind this position is that a broader planning area gives greater opportunities for a cohesive long term outcomes which would benefit the City.
As part of the Economic Development Advisory Committee Meetings (EDAC in 2018), Jeff Roberts representing the property owner came in as a guest speaker to answer questions regarding potential economic development opportunities on their property. The EDAC has included extensive recommendations on land use and flood control in their report. Because many recommendations were specific to Bellvue North land, Staff provided drafts of the report to Mr. Roberts so their group would not be surprised or unaware of the discussions. As Mr. Roberts was considering submitting a planning request, Staff repeatedly suggested that they wait to allow public discussions to occur (through the Strategic Planning Workshops) so they could hear public input outside of their request before submitting and starting another process.
As an aside, Staff meets constantly with property owners, businesses and prospective property owners about land use. At the City of Winters, we work to maintain optimum transparency and customer service for people who own property, businesses or are looking to invest in the City. Its simply what we do both big and small! The biggest complaint about government is people’s inability to “get answers” so we work to keep an open door and be accessible.
- Has a request for proposal (RFP) been released for planning firms to assist the property owners in the development of a specific plan?
The City Staff is unaware of any RFP by Bellvue North for planning services. We have told them and they have acknowledged that they want to bring a quality planning organization as part of any application to work with the City on such a project, so it would not be out of the ordinary for them to look to hire someone. This is no different than a property owner who hires an architect to help them design a home. In this case, Bellvue North will have a large group of planners, engineers, environmental consultants, etc within their team and doing an RFP is how you get proposals.
- Has the City entered into a reimbursement agreement with the developer to cover costs to pay the City for services associated with working with the developer?
Before considering or working on any submittal by Bellvue North (or any applicant), the City has provided our standard form “reimbursement agreement” which provides for the applicant to cover all City costs in the consideration of their application. In this case, we requested a $20,000 deposit and they have executed and sent the agreement it back. We do this for all projects to insure that the City costs are covered.
As a perspective, the City hires and pays all consultants associated with processing an application by any developer. This includes the project manager, environmental consultants, engineers, traffic engineers, financial consultants, etc as well as City Staff. The City team works independently of the applicant, reporting only to the City and not the applicant. This is done to avoid any conflicts. It is through the reimbursement agreement that the City receives the funds to pay the consultants.
- Has the City been in contact with the Yolo Local Agency Formation Commission regarding annexation information?
Yes. LAFCO is the agency responsible for all annexations and it is logical to contact them on process and law. Our discussions are also a courtesy to keep them in the loop that something might be on the horizon. We have been talking with them about annexation issues for probably the past 5 years!
- When will the City be moving forward on an update of its General Plan, doing a General Plan “Refresh” or additional planning work?
General Plans are extremely expensive and the City still owes almost $400,0000 from the 1992 plan. Timing on this depends on whether a planning application is submitted by Bellvue North which would essentially do a comprehensive update on all of our planning documents and in essence, an updated General Plan. The City has received a $100,000 grant towards a “refresh” of our documents to make them more user friendly and in line with State goals for how planning documents look. A refresh would most likely occur in our 2019-20 Fiscal Year.
Tuesday night was an active discussion with lots of issues.
Have a nice weekend!