The Davis City Council gave the OK with a 3-2 vote at its meeting Tuesday night.
The Cannery Park proposal for the 100-acre East Covell Boulevard site is the same one that Lewis Planned Communities submitted in 2006, then withdrew in March 2009. The withdrawal came after the council asked Lewis to shoulder the costs of an equal weight alternative environmental report that would entertain the possibility of a 100 percent business park, rather than the proposed primarily residential mixed-use project.
Lewis planned to buy the property the last undeveloped industrial-zoned parcel in the city from ConAgra if the project had gone through.
ConAgra, now picking up where Lewis left off, insists it has no interest in building a business park.
ConAgra representative George Phillips told the council the company likely would follow in Lewis footsteps and drop the project if the city still wants it to pay for the business park alternative report.
I think the property sits for a very long time, Phillips said, when Councilman Stephen Souza asked what would happen if the council decides the land should be used for a business park. You cant force landowners to do what they ultimately do not want to do.
The project proposal is for 62 low-density, 288 medium-density and 200 high-density residential units; an affordable housing land dedication of 60 units; 20 acres of office or business park land; 19 acres of park and open space; and 13 acres for roads.
One resident spoke against the project, saying Davis needs to create jobs, not build homes during a weak real estate market.
But several residents supported the project. Some were neighbors who had worked with Lewis representatives in developing a plan that was acceptable to the majority of people who lived near the neighborhood.
Throughout the design process, the Cannery Park proposal evolved and it was a good plan, said Eileen Samitz, a former member of the Planning Commission and General Plan steering committee.
Supporters said the property is not in the best location for a business park, since it is not near any freeways and is surrounded by homes.
Councilwoman Sue Greenwald, however, argued that the site is valuable as the citys only large parcel zoned for industrial use. She has long maintained there are enough approved residential projects in the city that remain unbuilt because of the economy.
On the other hand, Greenwald said, the city needs to support local job creation and think about the tax revenues a business park would generate.
We should put our houses where our jobs are, and jobs where our houses are, said Greenwald, who believes ConAgra is bluffing in saying it will not build a business park.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Krovoza said he preferred to start by determining the best use for the cannery site, then zoning it accordingly before supporting any kind of project proposal. He voted against the council majority.
But Souza, Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson and Mayor Don Saylor voted to accept ConAgras application without requiring a business park alternative report.
Swanson noted her interest in seeing the proposed 20-acre business park in the final design. She warned that she will not support the project if the business park component turns out to be just fancy window-dressing to get council approval.
ConAgra will go through the citys planning process, including review by city planners, the Planning Commission and the Finance and Budget Commission before returning to the City Council for final approval.
Reach Crystal Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8057. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com
Author: By Crystal Lee
Pub Date: Enterprise staff writer
Source: ConAgra Foods will be allowed to move through the citys planning process with its proposal to build a 610-unit residential project at the former Hunt-Wesson tomato cannery site in North Davis.