Originally scheduled for this past week, the City Council has continued the Public Hearing date for the Russell Ranch Road Retail Project to May 9, 2012, at 6:30 pm in the City Council Chambers at Westlake Village City Hall. Primarily, the continuation was due to Councilman Robert Slavin recusing himself from both the ad hoc committee and voting on the project. “While the City Attorney clearly opined that there’s no conflict of interest, I opted to recuse myself to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest and possibly taint the decision,” said Slavin. The rescheduling gave the Council time to appoint someone new (Councilman Davis) to the ad hoc committee (Councilman Rutherford continues on the committee), as well as to give more time to the community to review the documents.
There’s a large amount of information available, including site plans, renderings, and more. These 40+ documents are available on the City web site (http://www.wlv.org/whats_new/russell_ranch_retail.asp). Alternatively, a more convenient, smaller file size combined document set is on the Westlake Revelations web site at:
Traffic is one of the biggest concerns amongst the residents (and the City). When people say “traffic” it’s more about perception rather than the total number of cars in that day — specifically, congestion, wait times at traffic signals, and ease of getting through intersections. This is both from the way the City looks at it, as well as what most people think. Indisputably, of all the development proposals to date for Lot C (Lowes, Opus, Selleck), the Selleck proposal is by far the one with the least traffic impact for the city despite having slightly more projected car trips than Opus. No other realistic concepts have been suggested, let alone applied for, to date that would have less traffic impact than Selleck’s proposal.
While the City can help guide a developer on what it would like to see, the Council cannot decide what goes on a property. They can simply approve new rules for something they believe to be in the best interest of the City and residents, or decide that the existing rules are being met by the developer’s proposal. What is currently allowed by the rules is an office development. Selleck’s proposal asks the City to approve a retail development, giving what he believes is better for the City (less traffic, much smaller building square footage, more services for residents, and substantial tax revenue). The City Council’s responsibility is to now decide if it thinks it is in the best interest of the City to approve this proposal compared to what is already allowed (office space).
Selleck’s proposal estimates $850,000+ per year of revenue to the City of Westlake Village (growing to over $1 million per year after a few years). This is the portion of the sales tax that the city receives. Over time, this is expected to increase. By comparison, of the development proposals to date, Lowes would have been the greatest tax revenue (higher priced items), and Opus (the large office building project) would have generated near zero sales tax revenue.
The development agreement proposed has Selleck paying the City $3.4 million for traffic mitigation and community impact fee to be used as the City desires.
Traffic is assessed through a series of projections. If anything, these projections have gotten more conservative over time (e.g., projecting higher car trips than on previous projections). Selleck’s proposed project produces slightly more car trips overall compared to office, but spread over the entire day and week. It produces far less traffic than Lowes would have. Office space produces slightly less car trips overall, and negligible amounts on the weekend, but has a very substantial and significant impact on the peak hour traffic. If office space is built, both in the morning and in the evening, the traffic would be noticeable with major impact to residents in the City as they go through the City’s major intersections, whether on their way to work, school, or whatever during peak hours.
As some history, Westlake North planning area (the overall area in question) was created in the late 1980’s when there were plans for the golf course at the heart of Westlake Village would developed as office space. The City Council at the time, approached the owners of assorted properties and helped put together a deal that would create a 200 year buildilng moritorium for the golf course, and in exchange for that, the area around the cemetery (late 1980’s) would be developed for mixed use (retail, residential and office space). Rennaisance is residential, and the other existing developments are office and retail. Lot C, the only remaining parcel, (along with others) have the specific deed restriction for non-residential development. In other words, a developer cannot buy Lot C and build residential on it due to the deed restriction.
EIR, Development Restrictions
In the package of documents is the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). While a very informative document, there’s a bit of confusion about options. To give the pubic and City Council a basis for comparison in the EIR, there are two alternatives described. One is zero development, and the other is a combined residential, office, and retail facility. By law, the alternatives do not have to be practical, and are instead intended to help with the understanding of the EIR. Neither of these alternatives is realistic for Lot C for a couple of reasons…
The zero development, or park development option is not realistic because this is a private property with a substantial value (e.g., $10-$20 million) and comes with definite and established rights for any property owner. This is the same as someone buying a piece of land already approved for a house — they would have rights to build a house on it as long as they abide by the rules. Unless a resident or advocate identifies someone willing to pay this kind of value for the property, and then have it sit empty or become a park, it is not realistic.
As for residential, the original property owner, who sold to Costco and all the other developments in the Westlake North planning area, placed a deed restriction on all remaining undeveloped properties (in the mid-1990’s) that prohibits the development of any type of residential on any of those properties.