New study delays proposed Lowe's store for Petaluma

A proposed north Petaluma shopping center with a Lowe's home improvement store at its heart is about a year behind schedule, in part because of additional studies required by the city, the developers said.

City planners recently notified Merlone-Geier Partners, the San Francisco-based developers of the proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center, that a second economic impact study was necessary.

Originally, Merlone-Geier anticipated opening Lowe's in October 2011. A more realistic date is mid-2012, spokesman Marko Mlikotin said.

The draft of a second-tier environmental impact report, which includes focused studies on traffic and potential urban decay the center may cause, should be ready for public comment by the end of August or early September, planner Derek Farmer said.

Deer Creek Village is proposed as 346,000 square feet of new retail, office, health club and restaurant space on a 36.5-acre site, currently vacant, at the southwest corner of Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard.

The City Council's approval in February of another large-scale development, East Washington Place, where a Target and possibly a Friedman's Home Improvement store are planned, influenced the decision to require additional studies, Farmer said.

"It seemed to be a little more responsible to have an updated analysis done for the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) impacts, to make sure there was enough information for the council to make an educated decision," he said.

"We're taking a look at long-term trends, so we have what we feel is a defensible analysis."

The city was sued twice over the East Washington Place project, by the developers over delays and by a neighborhood opposition group over what it called an inadequate environmental report. In a three-way settlement, the developer, Regency Centers, agreed to pay the group $100,000 and all sides' legal fees.

The first economic study involving Deer Creek, received in early 2009, examined effects the development may have on other retail outlets in Petaluma, but City Manager John Brown said an updated look was prudent given changed economic times.

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