Thursday, February 14, 2013
B reak out the popcorn, but don’t expect Oscar-worthy entertainment.
This drama won’t play out at the planned 10-screen movie theater in The Dunes shopping center in Marina, but rather before the Fort Ord Reuse Authority board this Friday.
Officials say the development company that built The Dunes is threatening to scrap plans for the eagerly awaited theater, and some of the affordable homes included in the mixed-use development, if FORA doesn’t rescind newly added language affecting developer fees.
Let’s rewind. In September, the FORA board established a formula for calculating future fees. But several board members worried it would restrict FORA’s ability to add projects such as traffic mitigation or water augmentation as conditions change.
“The staff at FORA and the developers said that wasn’t the intention, so I asked that clarifying language be included,” says County Supervisor Jane Parker, a FORA board member. “Everybody said that would be fine.”
On Jan. 11 the FORA board unanimously adopted Parker’s amendment, allowing FORA to modify its list of capital-improvement projects as needed and tweak the development fees and special-district taxes it collects to fund them.
But that little change—adopted against the recommendation of the FORA Administrative Committee—prompted some big pushback.
FORA Executive Officer Michael Houlemard says developers feel the amendment muddies their financing prospects by introducing uncertainties.
“The new language, according to the developers, gives the impression that the money can be used for other projects that are not [environmental] mitigations,” he says. “I genuinely believe the added language will provide problems for underwriters.”
Houlemard says Scott Hilk, managing director of The Dunes developer Marina Community Partners, told the FORA Administrative Committee his company’s projects, including the movie theater, are on hold until the language is removed. Hilk didn’t return the Weekly’s calls.
In letters to the FORA board, two development groups—South County Housing, which is building the low-income housing portion of The Dunes development; and the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area—suggest Fort Ord housing projects won’t move forward unless the language goes. Interim Marina City Manager Doug Yount backs them up in a Jan. 30 letter to Houlemard.
The FORA board will consider rescinding the new language Feb. 15, but Parker plans to stand her ground.
“We keep doing what [developers] want, and then they say, ‘We want one more thing,’” she says. “It’s a bullying tactic I’m really tired of seeing.”
[Update: On Feb. 15 the FORA board voted 10-1, with only Parker dissenting, to eliminate the "clarifying language" and roll back to the original wording.]