The council also unanimously voted Monday, July 30, to amend the general plan to annex land and certify an environmental impact report for the proposed Arambel Business Park and KDN Business-Retail Center. The annexation would eventually add more than 1,100 acres to the city limits, an increase of 30 percent.
Developers say the project could create 10,000 jobs for an area hit hard by unemployment and produce $7 million in annual tax revenue when it is fully built in 20 to 30 years.
Tension in the council chambers grew as council members wrestled with whether to side with infrastructure cost estimates from project developers or city staff. The meeting continued for more than five hours.
There were nearly a dozen people in the audience, but no one spoke during the meeting except the developers, city employees and council members.
The fees suggested by the city staff — taken directly from the 2010 general plan — totaled more than $139 million for infrastructure, including sewage and water lines and street improvements.
The Arambel and KDN developers proposed to pay about $40 million, basing their calculations on fees approved in 2003 for the partially built first portion of the West Patterson Business Park.
The project’s environmental impact report called for the fees to be unchanged from the previous portion of the park.
While discussing the impacts, city staff members asked for more time to reach a solution to the impact fee impasse and find a way the developers could pay more.
Arambel project manager Joe Hollowell said the developers wanted a firm answer about fees Monday before moving forward.
Council members had directed city staff members July 23 to come up with a number that would be fair to both sides.
“Frankly, we’re at an impasse with staff,” Hollowell said, adding that spending more time in discussions would be fruitless. “It’s a waste of time to go back. (The developers) can’t pay it.”
Councilman Larry Buehner said the city needed the project to solve its problem of high unemployment, which has soared past 20 percent.
“There’s a lot of competition out there for businesses,” Buehner said. “(Businesses) will just move on to the next town if the fees are too high. I think we should just go with this and approve it.”
Councilwoman Annette Smith said discussions about fees should have taken place long before Monday’s meeting, as the project was an expansion of an existing business park.
“We’re not suffering. I don’t know what we’re missing,” she said.
Smith pointed out that in the most recent round of development, fees paid for the city’s community complex, including the community pool and many other amenities.
Councilman Dominic Farinha likened the fee arguments to a never-ending game.
“If we keep going back and back, it’ll look like an Olympic tennis match,” he said. “I’m more apt to stick with the fee structure as it is. Otherwise, we’ll be 65 before we make a decision.”
In addition to settling on lower fees, the council and developers agreed that five acres would be set aside for a public safety complex, which could include police and fire offices. The location has yet to be determined. Hollowell said the project developers would provide land for a fire station but would seek reimbursement for the land if a police office were placed there.
Council members shot down an idea floated a week earlier by Farinha, but opposed by developers, to designate 10 to 15 acres for a medical center.
Developers pushed the council and city staff to act quickly in hopes of meeting an Aug. 1 application deadline set by the Stanislaus County Local Agency Formation Commission. They need the agency’s approval, because LAFCo must approve the annexation of land before the business park can be built.
LAFCo would need to schedule a hearing before October and grant approval for annexation if the project were to move forward and be ready in early 2013.
Hollowell said last week that the aggressive timeline was meant to place the project ahead of the county’s West Park industrial project at the former Crow’s Landing Naval Air Station.
The commission comprises two county supervisors selected by the Board of Supervisors, two city council representatives selected by a majority of the mayors in the county and one public member selected by the other four members. It is chartered to deal with Stanislaus County land-use issues. Patterson does not have a LAFCo commissioner.
The project would expand the West Patterson Business Park by 1,119 acres and increase the city of Patterson’s physical area in four phases during 20 years or more. Most of that land is now farmland.
The 948-acre Arambel park would focus on light industrial businesses, similar to those already in the West Patterson Business Park, including CVS and Kohl’s distribution centers. The 104-acre KDN center would include retail stores.
The developer agreement between the parties is expected to be drawn up by Deputy City Attorney Doug White in time for a special City Council meeting Aug. 14. It will be put to a final vote at the regular meeting Aug. 21.
The council will not meet Tuesday, Aug. 7, because of National Night Out festivities.
• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31, or firstname.lastname@example.org.