Beginning Nov. 30, the creators of a vision to turn Albany's waterfront racetrack into Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's proposed second campus will take a step back, and no longer will fund the city's outreach efforts for the project or provide additional information to the lab.
In two letters dated Nov. 22, the day Berkeley Lab announced it would , the Stronach Group's development team expressed disappointment with the delay.
(Both letters are attached to this story in the PDF section. They are part of a report scheduled for a .)
Team member Ari Huber wrote in a letter to the University of California at Berkeley, that "Given the extraordinary expense of our efforts to date, we believe we have gone as far as we reasonably can be expected to go in providing the Lab with the information needed to assess the relative merits of the Golden Gate Fields site. Accordingly, we await the Lab's choice of a preferred site prior to incurring further costs."
The Stronach Group has not released information about costs related to its own extensive design and outreach process, which has included weekly sessions with the public, community phone surveys, geophysical testing and detailed site plans and revisions.
But, as of October, according to city documents, the team had to reimburse consultant and staffing costs incurred by the city alone in its Voices to Vision 2 process to engage and inform Albany residents about waterfront development at the racetrack.
DEVELOPER: COLLABORATION, DETAILED APPROACH HAVE BEEN KEY
In his letter, Huber also described the team's efforts since Berkeley Lab's May 2011 decision to include on vying for selection as the second campus site.
He pointed to a "collaborative process" in which developers made an "extraordinary commitment of time and resources" in responding to information requests from the public; sought input from Albany and Berkeley residents and officials; and "engaged local citizens, elected officials and city staffs, community leaders, and public interest groups."
Huber also wrote that the Golden Gate Fields site plan demonstrates qualities that are "quite simply beyond the reach of ."
Developers have pointed to stunning vistas, attractive communities and superior geophysical attributes—in the form of, for one, bedrock running along the eastern area of the site—as just a few of the reasons the it would be the right choice for Berkeley Lab.
Huber's letter was positive in tone, depsite some public concern about the project's impact on Albany and a recent report finding that the city could see only $300,000 annually from the endeavor.
Of the development plan, he wrote, the team has "every reason to believe [it] will be embraced by the community." (The lab has said in its decision-making process.)
MONEY FOR CITY OUTREACH EFFORTS IS TAPPED
Huber also wrote to Albany City Manager Beth Pollard. He told her that, due to the "extraordinary expense" of the process, "we are anxious to avoid incurring further project-related costs" pending a decision by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory "that would justify those expenditures."
Most recently, the Stronach Group has been reimbursing the city for its costs related to a charged with investigating the ramifications of waterfront development at the track, as well as the Voices to Vision 2 process that started earlier this year.
As of Nov. 30, developers will no longer cover these costs.
It's unclear whether sessions with Fern Tiger Associates, scheduled for December 2011 and into next year, will still happen.
Huber said developers would continue paying for these activities only if Berkeley Lab chooses Golden Gate Fields as its preferred site, and if developers reach an agreement with Berkeley Lab about the second campus deal.
VOTER INITIATIVE STATUS?
Development at the waterfront likely also would be dependent on a major change to business-as-usual for Albany politics. Under Measure C, voters decide the fate of proposed bay-side changes at the end of the city's zoning approval process and environmental reviews.
Attorney Cleve Livingston said, during the Nov. 6 Golden Gate Fields Task Force meeting, that the Stronach Group development team was working on drafting a voter initiative to change this process to give the City Council, rather than the voters, the final say. Following voter approval, as well as the regular zoning process and environmental reviews, the City Council ultimately would decide whether to move the project forward.
(Livingston is .)
Livingston said developers hoped to share a draft on Nov. 13, but could not commit to doing so.
At the group's Nov. 20 meeting, consultant Fern Tiger said she had not received any updates about possible initiative language since Livingston's comments on Nov. 6.
On Nov. 28, development team member Wei Chiu confirmed that initiative plans are on hold pending the lab's decision.
Weekly community open houses hosted by the developers also are on hiatus, Chiu said.
Read more about the process for selecting the proposed second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Albany Patch here.
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