Things were pretty mundane for most of Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Everyone had a positive view of Westfield North County’s plans to build a theater complex. Well, Councilman Ed Gallo had a little problem understanding how the center could lose 200 or so parking places to the new complex and still have a surplus over what the City required for parking, but seemed to understand when the staff explained again to him that there will be a reduction in the surplus number the mall now has. Councilwoman Olga Diaz thanked the Westfield folks for being a business concern that required absolutely no subsidies from the City.
Things did get a bit interesting when item 6: Extension of the ERTC Development Agreement was discussed. James McCann, was seeking to extend the current development agreement between his Escondido Research and Technology Center and the City of Escondido for ten more years. (I wrote about the ERTC before, https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/02/09/quail-granite-and-nitrogen-oxides/ ) After the staff presentation, Diaz stirred things up a bit when she asked what would happen if the City didn’t agree. Director of Community Development Jay Petrek answered that the extension would offer a guarantee of city services (water, sewer, etc.) availability to businesses who wished to build in the ERTC. Diaz noted that the land had set vacant for twenty years, and asked what the City could do to increase development, what was McCann’s plan for development? Abed reopened the public hearing so McCann could answer. “Sooner is always better” he assured Diaz. All the businesses that are there are first rate he declared, and being able to advertise that the City was 100% behind the project. He, he avowed, had not been involved for twenty years, only ten, and his was another project that required absolutely no subsidies from the City.
Only ten years? According to the U.T. San Diego: “ In 2001, one of the company’s subsidiaries, Sempra Energy Resources, offered to team up with McCann to turn the city’s last large piece of industrial land into a business park. The two parties entered into a joint development agreement to share costs in certain areas.” http://legacy.utsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20040822-9999-bizparknorth.html Absolutely no subsidies to the project? Well, what about the City’s costs in improving the Nordahl Road/Hwy 78 interchange, or the improvements to Citracado Pkwy. needed for the new hospital?
Councilman Mike Morasco said the best thing the City could do would be to extend the term of the agreement. Diaz asked McCann how the City could help speed the process. McCann took the opportunity to praise the City Council’s and City staff’s pro-business positions, that and providing a certainty of available services in marketing was what the City could do, and was doing. Mayor Sam Abed interrupted with his claim that he and Diaz had fundamentally different philosophies about this. He understood that the marketing was driven by the economy, and that the property owners should be the ones to decide how to market the property. The City had a vision for the ERTC, and they needed to protect this vision. Diaz responded that she only brought up her question in order to bring out ideas about how to speed up the development of the ERTC. She did not have a fundamental disagreement with Abed on the matter.
Gallo observed that Diaz shouldn’t be upset that the area had sat vacant for so long. After all, he added, if H.G. Fenton had succeeded, there would have been ten years of rock crushing going on in the area. He seemed to feel that if the ERTC had not been formed, then the only other possibility would have been Fenton’s proposed fifteen year development that would have phased in buildings while phasing out rock crushing.
Abed opened up the public hearing again to allow a residential neighbor of the ERTC to speak. She said had suffered a major impact on her quality of life since the start of the ERTC. She pleaded with the Council to always consider quality of life issues when making decisions about new development. Abed answered that the Councils objective was to create jobs. Don’t think she was very satisfied. She left the chambers shortly afterward.
And so the measure was approved by “four yes votes”. Councilman John Masson had recused himself as McCann is one of his clients. So, ten more years for the ERTC. Let’s hope it develops businesses a little more hi-tech than a hospital, a power plant, and a brewery.