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Deer Creek Developer, Residents Reach Settlement

Under terms of agreement, Merlone Geier will donate money to two community groups, pay for "traffic calming" measures and new trees

Merlone Geier, the developer of the Deer Creek shopping center, and the Petaluma Neighborhood Association, led by resident Paul Francis, have reached an agreement that allows the company would move forward with plans to build in exchange for additional improvements, such as traffic calming measures, new trees and a donation to local community groups.

The settlement was announced Friday and comes less than a month after Francis, a frequent critic of “big box” stores and sprawl, filed an appeal against the city for approving the 350,000 square foot development, which will have a Friedman’s home improvement store, a gym, restaurants and stores.

The appeal was scheduled to be heard at a hearing Monday.

Reached by phone, Francis said that he was pleased with the outcome and that he filed the appeal to ensure the city got the most out of the new development.

“I consider it a win-win,” Francis said. “It’s all about making the project viable and beautifying it so that people will actually want to go there, and could walk or bicycle there if they wanted to… We want to lift the community up, economically and environmentally.”

Francis declined to disclose the total amount of the settlement, but said that donations would be made to the River Heritage Center, a river educational center on McNear Peninsula, and Heritage Homes, a group focused on preserving Petaluma’s historic buildings.

As part of the agreement, the developer will also pay for additional traffic calming measures for pedestrians near the shopping center, improvements to Lynch Creek trail and tree planting on the Eastside.

Merlone Geier also reached a separate, non-monetary settlement with Janice and Gerald Thompson, who live across the street from the planned development. Under the terms of their agreement, the developer will consider putting in a pedestrian crossing at North McDowell and Rushmore Avenue, restore Deer Creek (including preserving the valley oak planted there) and build a new fence along a portion of McDowell.

"Dealing with the developer was easy, but it’s not something a citizen should have been doing, but the city council," said Janice Cader Thompson. "When you get up to speak, the city council doesn’t ask you any questions. They have their discussion, but they don’t bring you back into the discussion and that's a real problem. They need to learn how to communicate with everybody, and not just the developer and the Chamber of Commerce."

Councilman Mike Harris was among those who welcomed the news of the settlements.

“I’m glad we can move forward with a much needed project and revenue enhancement for the City,” Harris said. “A small group has held this up for too long.”

The project is set to start construction in early 2013 and be completed by the end of that year.

This is not the first time Francis has challenged a development.

In 2010, Francis and former councilman Matt Maguire sued the city and Regency Centers over the Target shopping center. Regency Centers settled the case, paying $82,000 for all the legal costs and $40,000 for “traffic calming” measures. The men also received $100,000 from Regency, for which were criticized by both supporters and opponents of Target.

mikeg55 September 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I'm totally convinced! There were no payoffs for the Target and Friedman center. All that money is going back into the community! Yay Petaluma! I can't wait to see that new trestle revitalize downtown, go on a heritage home tour, and then do my weekend shopping at the Target and Friedman shopping centers!!! Happy Happy Joy Joy!
Petaluma Seer September 26, 2012 at 06:30 PM
That's great you finally figured it out past all the defensive negative comments made by those who did nothing to help their community get mitigations for these projects. Thanks for finally coming up to speed, and please, while you are visiting the trestle and small craft boating from the River Heritage center please do shop at the local retailers in the downtown. Please do not just shop just at Target and Freidmans. And tell your friends to do the same. The downtown Garden Shops, Art Galleries, Eateries, Rex Hardware, Clavey's Boat Rentals, etc. need to be sustainable and thrive.. Thanks!
mikeg55 October 03, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Ha Ha Petaluma Seer, I was being sarcastic. Anyway, thank you Heritage Homes for not taking the extorted money. Nice to see a Petaluma-centric organization with scruples!
Petaluma Seer October 04, 2012 at 05:16 AM
If that is their choice, their loss, that's fine. The neighborhood adjacent to the DCV can surely use the funds for the mitigations. That will work out just fine. I am however sorry if there will be less draw to the historical downtown, thereby our local heritage Retailers. That was the money's intent. Perhaps the Heritage Homes may be funded enough from other donations. That's great! Looking forward to walking on a newly repaired trestle!
Jonathan December 14, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Im Curious as to who is going to be the General Contractor for the Job.. If any one knows shoot me an email.. Thankyou juribe707@gamil.com

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