Kathryn Palmer, PRESS DEMOCRAT
In the new Petaluma City Council’s first meeting, a tie vote has all but killed the revised Corona Station project meant to create more than 500 homes and usher in the city’s second SMART train station.
It was an unceremonious end to a proposal that has dominated public meeting agendas for more than a year, sparked heated controversies and prompted a lawsuit from new Council member Brian Barncale that forced developer Todd Kurtin to go back to the drawing board.
“Unless some miracle gets pulled out of a hat, this whole thing is basically over,” Kurtin said the day after the vote. “At the end of the day, the economics of the project and the politics of the city just didn’t mesh, so it all fell apart.”
The convoluted project, its most recent iteration proposing 131 affordable units at the corner of Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard, was inexorably tied to the funding of the proposed east side SMART station as well as the future of a 402-unit apartment project next to the current downtown train station.
The vote Monday night effectively denied a linchpin request made by the downtown apartment developer Hines Co. to count affordable housing units on Corona Road toward requirements related to the downtown project. Representatives for Hines say the refusal makes their project financially untenable and scuttles the web of agreements that linked all three projects.
“We wanted to use the affordable housing units at the Corona Station as the (downtown project’s) alternative housing compliance,” Kurtin said, referring to the city policy that requires developers either to include on-site affordable units or place them in an alternative off-site location. “Since we can’t use the Corona Station affordable units to fulfill that, then everything is going to be collapsing.”
The evening meeting marked the first time newly elected officials Barnacle and Dennis Pocekay virtually joined the dais. The inaugural council session resulted in a rare stalemate 3-3-1 vote, with Pocekay joining Mayor Teresa Barrett and Councilmember D’Lynda Fischer in denying the request, while Councilmembers Dave King, Mike Healy and Kevin McDonnell supported the project. Barnacle’s lawsuit against the Corona Station project was a clear conflict of interest, requiring the new council member to recuse himself on the vote.
The split vote could signal a new progressive bloc headed by Barrett and Fischer, after this week’s rebuke of a project that former Council members Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller historically supported.
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