DUBLIN -- The city of Dublin is moving ahead with a plan that would bring nearly 2,000 homes, a new school, stores, parks and businesses to land that's currently part of the Camp Parks military base.
After nearly three hours of public comment and deliberation, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the Dublin Crossings project, certify an environmental impact report on the plan, and begin the process of rezoning the 189-acre property -- all but a tiny portion of which is owned by the Army Reserve base.
"This is an incredibly central area, in terms of unifying the city, and making it feel cohesive and integrated," Councilman Abe Gupta said. "This is truly one of the most critical areas of the city ... I feel very confident that we'll be able to look back at this project and have a level of pride."
For this project, the city has been working with the New York-based real estate company SunCal, which agreed to provide the base with millions of dollars in improvements, including a new gate currently under construction, in exchange for the land. Gupta said a lot of the infrastructure updates to the base area were badly needed.
"When you look at Camp Parks, it's an amazing facility, but the truth is, the age of the buildings make it look like a movie set," Gupta said. "You're looking at buildings that are 70 years old, that are falling apart, that look terrible. It's not sustainable."
About 80 members of the public attended the meeting, about half of whom were there to support the project. A handful spoke in favor of the plan, mostly small-business owners, contractors or others with a direct interest.
No one from the public voiced opposition to the plan, but council members Kevin Hart and Don Biddle said they had a problem with a special 2 percent tax that will be imposed upon future Dublin Crossings residents, to cover project infrastructure costs. Hart said he didn't think the tax was fair to area residents, but that he wasn't so opposed to it that he felt compelled to vote against the plan.
Shortly thereafter, Mayor Tim Sbranti said he understood Hart and Biddle's uneasiness, and that the special tax was "a one-time thing." He added that he had recently heard from a developer interested in imposing a similar tax for a different land deal, and that he flat-out rejected that proposal.
"The only reason I even considered it here, and thought it was the way to go, was because of the uniqueness of this project in terms of the phasing with Camp Parks," Sbranti said.
Some in the Tri-Valley area have expressed concerns that the plan could further harm dwindling populations of burrowing owls, a local species that nests in ground holes dug by squirrels and other critters. No one at the meeting raised this issue, and the environmental impact report for the plan requires a biologist survey for burrowing owl population before any dirt is moved, and provide "protective buffers" for breeding or wintering burrowing owls on or adjacent to the project area.
Joe Guerra, a consultant for SunCal, spoke before the council and said that he expects his company will break ground on the project within 30 to 60 days after the completion of the military base's new gate, which is scheduled to be done by March.