Ukiah council takes stand against development ballot measure

The Ukiah City Council on Wednesday night took a formal stand against a proposed ballot measure that would allow a shopping center developer to bypass Mendocino County?s planning and environmental review process.

?We won?t have any voice,? said Ukiah City Councilwoman Mari Rodin. ?I think this is bad for the city. I think this is bad for the county,? she said before the 5-0 vote on the resolution.

If the ballot measure is approved by voters, developers would be free to build as much as 800,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and homes at the defunct Masonite molded-door mill, just north of the Ukiah city limits. It would change the land?s zoning from industrial to mixed use.

Neither county nor city officials, nor area residents, would have a say in how the project would be built and no environmental impact study would be required if the developer?s plan is passed by voters.

The developers have circulated drawings of a mixed-use development of stores, restaurants and residences, but the ballot initiative notes the economy ultimately will dictate what is built. If the initiative passes, there would be nothing to preclude it from becoming a simple big-box shopping center, opponents said.

The proposed initiative allows up to 650,000 square feet of commercial development and 150,000 square feet of residential development on 74 acres.

The ballot initiative is pending approval of its petition signatures, but it is expected to qualify for the November ballot because nearly twice the number of necessary signatures were collected.

City officials say the development ? dubbed Mendocino Crossings ? could have adverse effects on the city?s budget, public safety services and infrastructure, local businesses and the city?s small-town character and aesthetics.

Developers Diversified Realty and their supporters say they resorted to a ballot measure because county officials had dragged their feet on the project and ongoing discussions of the stalled Ukiah Valley Area Plan, which was expected to govern land use for the property. The company first applied for a zoning change in 2005.

A majority on the county Board of Supervisors also was expected to oppose the project.

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