Wednesday, July 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Council will talk innovation park options

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From page A3 | June 29, 2014 |

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What: Davis City Council meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it live: Comcast Channel 16, AT&T U-Verse Channel 99 or on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media

The City Council will let local business leaders and developers of a potential innovation center know Tuesday whether their idea for a kind of early Measure R vote is a good idea.

The request to City Council last Tuesday followed the submission of documents answering the city’s Request For Expressions Of Interest. The RFEI is part of an at least two-year-long process of analyzing the innovation center concept, potential locations around Davis and the potential benefits of innovation centers on the economy of Davis.

Three different teams submitted plans Monday, according to a city staff report.

One was for the potential Mace 200 proposal, a 185-230 acre site located around 26295 Mace Blvd. promoted by RAMCO Enterprises, The Buzz Oates Group of Companies and Barbara Bruner. The second was a submittal for a T-shaped 207-acre site abutting Sutter Davis Hospital, the Davis Innovation Center, by Hines and SKK Developments. The third was a yet-to-be-named 200-acre concept at Davis Ranch, submitted by Capital Corridor Ventures and AKT Investments, Inc. In that submittal, the family of Angelo Tsakopoulos would donate 200 acres to the city of Davis for the purposes of developing an innovation center.

The Mace 200 submittal team wants the city to let it engage in an early, amended Measure R community vote in order to save potential millions of dollars in environmental studies and other investments before knowing whether the project is likely a go.

“We certainly support Measure R,” Dan Ramos, vice president of RAMCO Enterprises, wrote in a June 17 letter to the city. “However, we would like the mandated vote to occur earlier in the process. Why? Because it waits until too late in the process for us, the landowner, to ascertain whether the community supports our proposal. The same is true for local innovation companies, which are currently seeking expansion opportunities.”

One of those businesses is Schilling Robotics. In a statement to The Enterprise, company president Tyler Schilling said that innovation parks offer chances for companies like his to expand within Davis.

“We started Schilling Robotics in 1985 to supply robots for use in the deep ocean,” he wrote in a letter. “We began by leasing 300 square feet from a local business, and we now occupy more than 100,000 square feet in two facilities on Cousteau Place … I expect our workforce (200) to grow by 10 percent this year.

“However, we are running out of room. And we can’t currently expand in Davis because no existing or proposed facility is big and modern enough to accommodate our growth. Other Davis companies that ran out of room simply moved away, taking their jobs and economic activity to business-friendly places like Vacaville and West Sacramento.

“But I am from Davis. I built this company here. I want to take advantage of the talented workforce that comes out of UC Davis.”

Schilling went on to say that with a November 2014 vote he could start planning for staying in Davis. The City Council would have until mid-month to place an amended Measure R on the November ballot.

The Davis Innovation Center team opposes the idea.

In a June 26 letter to the city, the team said it should be included in any amended Measure R vote, but said engaging in a pre-Measure R vote now was not good public policy.

“We do not however, believe that placing any proposal on the ballot at this particular time is good public policy , particularly given the city’s very recent receipt of this information and lack of public input and consideration,” they wrote. “It is unclear what purpose the RFEI served if the city disregards those submittals and elects instead to immediately place a project on the ballot with little public discussion.”

A city staff report notes that an amended Measure R might not be able to contain enough information for voters in the ballot language for them to vote yes. Moreover, citizen’s referendums and lawsuits could still be launched to force the project to go before the voters after the entitlement process.

There are other alternatives, as well. One is a citizen’s initiative that would place the responsibility of generating sufficient community interest via signatures into the developers’ hands. If the initiative succeeds, however, the city must accept the outcome and cannot overturn it.

Ramos said the request to the city was simple.

“We’re just asking the citizens of Davis to do Measure R up front,” he said, adding time was of the essence. “We gotta get started, we can’t let this opportunity slide by.”

John Hodgson, president of the Hodgson Company that is working with the Davis Innovation Center, said his team responded to the RFEI as asked.

“You would think the next step would be for the city to carefully review the proposals,” he said.

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

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