Saturday, May 17, 2008

Benicia council poised to begin final look at Seeno project plan

Benicia council poised to begin final look at Seeno project plan
By SARA STROUD/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 05/05/2008 06:46:39 AM PDT

BENICIA - The plan for a controversial mixed-used development will begin the final stage of a quest for city approval Tuesday.

The City Council will begin discussion about the proposed Benicia Business Park, but given the project's scope and the extensive public debate it has engendered, the subject likely will continue to future meetings, city staff said.

By law the council must decide about the project by the end of its June 3 meeting unless the city and developer Discovery Builders agree to an extension.

"It could be the main event for all three" council meetings between Tuesday and June 3, community development director Charlie Knox said.

Also known as the Seeno project, the proposed commercial and industrial development would occupy 528 acres between Lake Herman Road and East Second Street, on what is Benicia's last large undeveloped parcel.

An earlier version of the project sparked criticism from some residents and prompted the formation of two opposition groups, Benicia First! and Citizens Considering the Consequences.

In February, the council approved an environmental report for the project, but said it was inconsistent with the city's general plan. After the council's decision, the developer made extensive changes, reducing grading while increasing the amount of open space and adding environmental concessions.

But last month, by a 6-to-1 vote, the planning commission recommend the council reject the project. Commissioners said they felt too rushed, but Discovery Builders representatives declined to give them more time. They also rejected the commission's request for a development agreement.

Discovery Builders representatives did not respond to requests for comment last week.

Knox said he thinks most of the project's general plan inconsistencies have been resolved, resulting in an "environmentally palatable" project.

Previous council and planning commission meetings on the development have stretched late into the night in packed council chambers.

Jerome Page, of Benicia First!, said the group plans to be out in force Tuesday night.

While the developer made some improvements from the earlier project, Benicia First! would like to see a cohesive research and development-based core, Page said.

"We'll keep plugging for what we think Benicia deserves and ought to get," Page said.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 250 E. L St.

• E-mail Sara Stroud at or call 553-6833.

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