Despite vocal opposition and calls for additional studies, a split Petaluma City Council early Tuesday approved the final environmental analysis of the Deer Creek Village shopping center.
By certifying the report, the City Council essentially approved the 36.5-acre development, which is to be anchored by a Friedman's Home Improvement store. The 344,000-square-foot project must still go through the city's design review process for approval of architectural details.
Mike Healy, Mike Harris, Chris Albertson and Gabe Kearney voted to certify the final environmental impact report, while Tiffany Renee, Teresa Barrett and Mayor David Glass voted to reject it.
The decision didn't come easily: About 200 people packed City Hall for the hearing, which lasted six hours. Forty-seven residents spoke, 32 in favor of the project.
Two opponents have retained lawyers, although they didn't overtly threaten legal action Monday night.
Supporters urged the city to welcome Friedman's back to its hometown after a four-decade absence. Bryce Pattison, a small business owner, said he bought a fixer-upper when he moved to Petaluma and has spent more than $50,000 -- "every penny of it in Santa Rosa" -- because Petaluma has no home improvement warehouse.
Merlone Geier Partners, a San Francisco developer, has been working with the city since 2008 to develop the vacant property along Highway 101 at Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard.
Glass backed an alternative plan identified in the study, which would have replaced most of the retail space with a residential care facility, although that option failed to gain any other council support.
"Was it what I wanted? No. But it did get improved," he said of the final Deer Creek proposal.
Merlone Geier spokesman Marko Mlikotin said the center will bring hundreds of jobs to Petaluma and about $1 million annually in sales and property tax revenue. The city will also receive about $9.2 million in development impact fees.