Friday, October 10, 2008


by Rick Ernst, Member, Benicia Planning Commission

I wish to extend sincere accolades to Benicia Herald Staff Reporter, Mr. Yevgeniy Sverdlik, for the excellent work he has done since coming to our fair city. I do not wish for this letter to be construed as criticism of his article found on the front page of Thursday's issue, entitled, "Denied: Council votes, 3-2, against business park plan", under which, Mr. Sverdlik states, "In epic meeting, mayor, two members send developer packing".

First, despite the fact there were a number of personal attacks of Mr. Seeno and his family, there are many in the community that were glad the Seeno family was in town and would like to see his property developed. Many felt that the project as proposed was satisfactory. Many did not believe the project was satisfactory, and, of course, Council ultimately denied the application. However, I don't think anybody in town felt as if they sent the developer "packing". On the contrary, I believe many people in town would like to see the applicant return to Benicia in the very near future to sit down and discuss a project that is win-win-win for everybody, including the residents, our children, the school district, and the Seeno family -- as the Mayor indicated, we all want an A-plus project.

The definition of an A-plus project is, however, up for discussion, which brings me to my point. I believe that nearly everybody in town would look forward to sitting down and working out a project that everybody agrees is win-win-win as stated above. A project that everybody agrees is A-plus. A project that allows the owner/developer to develop the land and provide much-needed revenues to the city; that provides much needed police and fire services; that allows upgrades of much needed infrastructure; that, indeed, protects the health and safety of all residents, children and students; that is environmentally friendly; that, perhaps, has a positive energy outflow and a low carbon footprint; that provides construction jobs at the outset and jobs that fit our demographics down the road, and allows the owner/developer to earn a profit for all their time and effort.

We have experienced up and downs during this debate that has lasted nearly four years on the current project, not to mention previous applications. We have all endured far too much haggling. Not to place blame on anybody in particular -- it is a difficult process to dance around when it comes to CEQA, change in city staff, and a huge project that has many consequences, positive and negative, with the possibly that some consequences may be unforeseen and unintentional. We need to identify, review, and mitigate those consequences.

I understand that Seeno purchased the land with the intent to build homes which is their forte. But, things changed. Zoning changed. Councils changed. Climate changed. And, we have gained tremendous understanding of these kinds of developments over the past 25 years. It's been a difficult path for all parties concerned, especially this owner/developer who has invested considerablbe time and money putting together what they felt was a Class A Project.

So, where do we go from here? I suggest that we do not send Seeno "packing". I don't want Discovery Homes to go away. Rather, I would like to invite Mr. Seeno and his associates, Mr. Evola, representatives from Labor, the "Activists", and all interested parties to gather together and discuss and agree upon an A-plus project.

The fact is, we have a fairly solid foundation with all the work that has gone into this process to date. Everybody is aware of what everybody else wants, so we have an excellent starting point. We've passed the "On your mark" stage. We can move right into, "Get set", and, then, hopefully, in the very near future, we can proceed to "GO!", and we can get a project off and running of which everybody can be proud!

I'm confident with all the brainpower we have in this City, with the expertise of Seeno, with the dedication of our City Council, and professionalism of our Staff, it can be done! I'm looking forward to everybody's input, cooperation, and agreement so that we can break ground next year, as was suggested at the Council Meeting.

On your mark, get set, Go!

No comments: