Plans are slowly moving ahead for a multidimensional transit village expected to transform Santa Rosa's Railroad Square area and create a major hub for the Sonoma-Marin commuter train approved by voters last month.
But a technical glitch, logistical problems and lingering reluctance among some board members of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District on Wednesday delayed needed approval of agreements to sell 5? acres of district land to developers for housing, office space and a food-and-wine center.
Officials said they expect the board will approve the deal at its Dec. 17 meeting -- later than some members had hoped but not so late it interferes with the project's progress.
"From the developer's side, we're always in a hurry because there are ramifications for each delay," said Michael Dieden, a principal with Los Angeles-based Creative Housing Associates, which is behind the $150 million project.
"But also you have to respect the public process, which often has little things like this happen from time to time," he said.
Some board members expressed reservations about rushing Wednesday to approve dense legal agreements they hadn't thoroughly reviewed.
"We continue to be stampeded on this project," said SMART board member Al Boro, San Rafael's mayor. "We've been pushed and pushed."
The project, west of Santa Rosa's railroad tracks between Third and Sixth streets, includes office and housing space as well as a food-and-wine center patterned after the San Francisco Ferry Building.
Both SMART and the city of Santa Rosa are invested in the project because of its value in creating train ridership, as a tourist destination and in paying for other benefits such as parking and road construction.
The purchase agreements also include a sliver of land for a $50 million live/work space called The Cannery planned by the John Stewart Co. of San Francisco.
Project developers are working together to maximize capitalization options and because their success is largely interdependent.
Dieden and SMART officials were eager to get the long-negotiated agreements approved as leverage when developers for the projects, now referred to as New Railroad Square, apply for $12 million in state funding in January.
But a special meeting to accomplish that task, with some board members attending by conference call, had to be cut short because the phone connection was not clear enough for everyone to understand.
Boro and others also said they need more time to review the documents. Jim Eddie, a SMART board member through his membership on the Golden Gate Bridge District, said he had reservations about tying up the property by approving phased eight- and nine-year options on the land without assurance the project would be built.
"It's high risk," he said.
Windsor Mayor Debora Fudge, vice chairwoman of the SMART board, said she had "full faith" in the agreements, the basic terms of which already have won board approval, and expected final approval in two weeks.
"This is a huge risk for the developers, and we need to do everything we can," Fudge said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.