GUEST OPINION: Petalumans were doing the City Council's job

Recently Petalumans have seen private citizens performing the function of what a City Council should be doing for a community ("$200,000 deal avoids Petaluma lawsuit: Developer of Friedman's Center agrees to settlement with anti-big-box group," Sept. 22)

It is the responsibility of the City Council to evaluate the impacts development brings to a community. This is a two-sided balance sheet weighing both beneficial and negative impacts.

It is not necessary to have a City Council tell us what the benefits are. The benefits are obvious. In the case of Friedman's Home Improvement, we are lucky to have a local company returning to the community of its origin. This is far superior to the original plans of the developer to burden us with a national chain.

The identified parcel also meets the needs of Friedman's, and with its business located at this site it is less likely it will encounter a competing store in Petaluma anytime soon. Those are the benefits, and they come as a result of market forces with or without any involvement of City Council members.

What also comes with this and any project are a good deal of negative impacts from the associated traffic challenges new development creates. There were simple remedies that a City Council concerned with the impacts would have insisted upon being included in this project. They were mitigations that I found the developer was agreeable to including in the project.

However, because the City Council, in its rush to judgment, failed to ask much of anything to protect our quality of life, my husband and myself were left with the burden of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars fronted into legal fees and the potential of a lawsuit against our town to achieve the following safety measures for our community:

<•>A fully paid, lighted crosswalk at Rushmore and Rainier avenues.

<•>Replacing the 30-year-old dilapidated fence, the gateway to the Park Place neighborhood.

<•>New landscaping on McDowell Boulevard to reduce sound. The developer agreed to maintain the landscaping for five years.

<•>Protection of the old valley oak tree on the Deer Creek site.

Neighborhood associations should not be the ones negotiating crosswalks, landscaping, fencing and traffic-calming measures to make a neighborhood safer. This is the job of our City Council, and it failed.

That failure was a result of a lack of willingness on the part of the four members who blindly looked the other way to the additional needs of our community. Yes, we need and welcome Friedman's back to our community.

For that, we can thank Friedman's, not the politicians, particularly those who originally advocated for a national chain. And for the failure to provide the corresponding safety and quality-of-life improvements, we can point the finger accurately at Mike Healy, Mike Harris, Chris Albertson and Gabe Kearney.

They have proven themselves to be nothing more than needless cheerleaders for the developers at the community expense, and to balance the scale with vital analysis, it is unfortunately left to citizens exercising their legal rights to achieve adequate remedies for the impacts of development.

<i>Janice Cader-Thompson is a former Petaluma City Council member. She was party to a recent settlement with developers of the Deer Creek Village shopping center that allows the project to move forward.</i>