Petaluma group drops opposition to Friedman's project

  • Artist's rendering of proposed Friedman's Home Improvement store in Petaluma

A Petaluma group agreed Friday to drop its opposition to the Friedman's-anchored Deer Creek Village shopping center in exchange for nearly $200,000 in concessions from the developer.

The six-figure settlement is the second the Petaluma Neighborhood Association has achieved in its opposition to large-scale developments in Sonoma County's second-largest city. The money is earmarked for street, bike, pedestrian and traffic improvements, three community groups and the PNA's legal costs.

In 2010, the loosely organized group forced a three-way settlement with the city and developers of the Target shopping center, which netted the two leaders of the group $100,000 and paid $50,000 toward their legal fees. It also required the developer, Regency Centers, to pay the city's legal fees related to the PNA suit and another one Regency had filed.

Merlone Geier Partners said the $191,000 settlement announced Friday will head off an expected lawsuit that would have further delayed the project and cost perhaps several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees.

During the planning process, a law firm hired by the PNA, headed by Petaluman Paul Francis, filed several letters of opposition in connection with various aspects of the Deer Creek proposal.

The latest settlement, reached Friday afternoon, calls for the PNA to drop its appeal, scheduled to be considered at Monday's City Council meeting. The group was asking the City Council to overturn the Planning Commission's latest approvals of the project's design.

The City Council had already approved the main planning hurdles, including an environmental impact report for the 36.5-acre, 344,000-square-foot shopping center along North McDowell Boulevard at Rainier Avenue.

When completed, it will be the city's second-largest shopping center, slightly smaller than the Target center currently under construction on East Washington Street along Highway 101.

"In this tough economy, no one stands to benefit from project delays and a lawsuit," Greg Geertsen, managing director of Merlone Geier, said in a written statement.

"An agreement has been reached that ensures Friedman's returns to its hometown, 800 jobs and millions of dollars in additional city revenue that can help rebuild Petaluma's roads and help protect its neighborhoods and schools."

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