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Developer terminates agreement with Windsor, leaving civic center project in limbo

The developer of a controversial Windsor civic center project has withdrawn from an exclusive negotiating agreement with the town, according to a letter received this week by officials, leaving the development’s future uncertain.

Robert Green of the eponymous Robert Green Co. sent a letter Thursday to interim Windsor Town Manager Mark Linder that said the company was exercising its right to terminate the agreement, which was a pact giving the developer the sole right to design the project.

Windsor Town Council had voted Dec. 1, 2021, to halt any work on the project until June 30. A vote on whether to continue the agreement and allow work on the project to move forward would have been held before that.

Mayor Sam Salmon said he anticipated a letter from Green, and wasn’t surprised that he was pulling out of the pact. He said the April 6 election was likely a referendum on the civic center project.

“I kinda told people that in many ways this (election) was about the civic center,” Salmon said. “That’s why we reached out to a candidate who would be very clear about how he felt about the project (Council Member Mike Wall). And he (Green) kind of agreed to that before the election.”

With the election of Wall, a vocal opponent of renewing the agreement, the developer did not have the necessary votes on the Town Council to do so. Council member Rosa Reynoza has to recuse herself as she lives near the project, so the council would have deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, with Salmon and Wall expected to vote against extending the agreement and Council member Deb Fudge and Vice Mayor Esther Lemus voting to approve. A deadlock would not have extended the agreement.

A section in the agreement states the company can withdraw if “the Town does not timely approve the Proposed Development Term by the end of Phase II Period or the Parties reach an impasse in their negotiations of the Proposed Development Terms which cannot be resolved after good faith efforts.”

“The Robert Green Co. will be happy to reengage with the Town if at any point in the future the Town expresses a desire to work with us on a high-quality mixed-use project in this location that is of the caliber of project The Robert Green Co. has been successfully developing in other communities for nearly 25 years,” the letter stated.

The project, proposed for the northern edge of the Town Green, included a hotel, luxury residential units, a new town hall, police station and library.

The agreement will be on the agenda for discussion at the June 1 council meeting, according to Salmon and Fudge.

“(It) was really disingenuous of Windsor to turn our backs on this opportunity after we had accepted the developer’s draft proposal and let him spend hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Fudge said Saturday. “The project wasn’t finished — we only had half the information.”

She said more information on the financial aspects of the project and whether it would pencil out for the town and Green’s company would have come out with the approval of the agreement.

“He needed an extension because of the chaos caused by the pandemic and what happened with Dominic Foppoli (the former mayor who resigned after being accused of sexual assault by several women last year),” Fudge said.

She maintained that, instead of the project paying for the construction of the new civic center, the burden of the cost of replacing the library, police station, town hall and school district administration building will have to be paid by residents through an eventual property or sales tax.

“I think we need to look at the civic center and what we want to do as a community,” Salmon said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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