The San Carlos City Council may consider a significantly reduced Transit Village project but at least two members want the vote put on pause until after the newly elected member joins them on the dais.
Vice Mayor Mark Olbert and Councilman Matt Grocott both believe incoming councilman Cameron Johnson rather than Councilwoman Karen Clapper, who lost the Nov. 5 election, should weigh in on the controversial project because it was a hot-button issue in the city election.
“It was a big factor for a good number of voters and, while I don’t at all dispute the current council has the legal authority to make the decision, I think it would be highly appropriate and the right thing to wait,” Olbert said.
Grocott, who has publicly called the project too big for the location around the existing train station, agrees.
“It’s been enough of a campaign issue that it’s respectful to the voters and to the candidates who spent time studying the project,” Grocott said.
For those who would argue Clapper has spent ample time readying for the vote, Grocott said he would counter that she was in that position because the council put her there. The City Council appointed Clapper to finish out the term of the former mayor who resigned.
She did not return multiple inquiries but with the remaining councilmembers split — both Mayor Bob Grassilli and Councilman Ron Collins do not favor a postponement — Clapper may be left in the unique position of herself determining if she or Johnson will vote.
For his part, Johnson said he doesn’t presume to tell the council what to do but certainly has a preference.
“I would like the opportunity to weigh in. We talked a lot about it in the campaign and I heard a lot of concerns about the proposal from residents so I would like the opportunity,” he said.
But for Collins and Grassilli, the time is now.
“I’m not inclined to wait. This is the council that has seen this project all the way through and this is the council that should decide it,” Collins said.
When the Election Night returns showed clearly that Johnson would replace Clapper, Grassilli said he was on “the opposite side” of the idea to postpone.
The project was last proposed as 280 residential units spread over eight buildings with four stories although some of the top floors have already been reduced by developer Legacy Partners in response to community outcry. There is also 36,319 square feet of commercial space, a transit center and 226 commuter parking spaces.
However, the council will be faced Tuesday — assuming it goes forward with a vote — with two alternatives which makes changes such adding trees and cutting stories off some buildings. In the second alternative, the units will drop to 265.
Ben Fuller, president of the Greater East San Carlos group which has largely opposed the project, said holding off is the right move but he cites the need for more answers rather than who will be making the vote.
“There are so many more issues that need to be dealt with and all of those things take weeks and months. So if they rush it through and don’t deal with it we’re going to have a referendum,” Fuller said, referencing his previously announced plans to attack council approval at the ballot box.
Fuller said proposed reductions are a step in the right direction but are still not enough to quell concerns over size, density, shadowing and traffic.
“Let’s not rush it. Let’s work together and continue what we’re doing,” he said.
Grocott also has another suggestion that may push out a decision — story poles. He suggested them at the last meeting as a way to illustrate the project’s height and density but his enthusiasm wasn’t widely shared. He plans to raise the idea again Tuesday.
“It’s a big project and I think people deserve to be able to see what that means through story poles. Let the story poles tell the story if you will,” he said.
Grocott said he even found a company that will be able to install the large poles using mechanical lifts despite the developer and other city officials questioning the ability.
“Legacy just doesn’t want the public to see the full size and scope,” he said.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
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