Monday, June 2, 2008

Benicia's Seeno project approaches key vote

More than a year of public debate comes down to Tuesday night, when the City Council is scheduled to vote on plans for a massive mixed-used development.

The council must decide the Benicia Business Project's fate Tuesday — or in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Because a lengthy discussion is expected, the meeting will begin at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than usual.

Tuesday's meeting will mark the third consecutive council discussion about the project.

Previous meetings were consumed largely by public comment and presentations from interested parties. Councilman Mike Ioakimedes said he hopes the third meeting will include some in-depth discussion among the five council members.

City staff members recommend the council OK the project, although there are more than 200 attached conditions of approval, including 24-hour on-site project monitoring and steps to attract "high-quality business."

"I think we're pretty close," Councilman Alan Schwartzman said Friday, as long as the developer agrees to the approval conditions.

Also called the Seeno project, the business park would occupy about 528 acres near Lake Herman Road in northeast Benicia. It is the last large undeveloped parcel in the city.

The project would consist of about 60 percent open space. The rest would be a mix of commercial and light industrial development.

Developer Discovery Builders has made extensive changes to the proposed project since Advertisementthe council noted numerous conflicts with the city's general plan when they approved a key environmental report in February.

"There have been some changes," and things have been "tightened up," Ioakimedes said. "The question for some of us is, 'Is that enough?'"

Ioakimedes said he would like to see more emphasis on mass transit options, as the project is expected to generate thousands of jobs — which is likely to mean thousands of cars on the road.

At previous meetings, project opponents argued that there have been inadequate environmental and economic assessments of the revised project. They said they favor an environmentally cutting-edge development that would attract research and development firms.

Though the project has raised criticism among some community members and city leaders, even detractors say they want some kind of project on the site.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 250 East L St.

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