Five & ½ Hours: City Council Meeting 3/10/2020

Updated: Mar 19, 2020

Last night was the first time the City Council took up the Hollydale development issue. Our agenda item started at 7:15 p.m. It was completed at 12:45 a.m. Mayor Wosje said it was the first time in 8 years he had ever been in a Council meeting after midnight.

The Mayor also said that he had never received as many e-mails on any issue as he has regarding Hollydale. Great job, citizens! Thank you all for your letters, for putting out signs, signing the petition, donating, and for attending meetings.

The agenda with respect to Hollydale was narrowly confined to the Environmental Assessment Worksheet and the Sketch Plan. The Council's job, by law, was to either (a) accept the EAW as complete and accurate with respect to the facts, (b) ask for more information or (c) require an Environmental Impact Statement, which is something the City has never done before.

The Mayor opened the meeting saying that they totally understood where we were coming from, that The Process was frustrating, but required by law, and that they had read all of our emails and watched the Planning Commission meeting, so he asked that we please don't repeat ourselves in our comments.

The Mayor also noted that many people brought up the need for green space, and reminded us that 20 years ago the city decided to buy land for the Greenway, so we already have green space. He neglected to mention that 20 years ago, and even 6 months ago, Hollydale was (and remains) part of the green space plan.

Over 25 people spoke to the issues of the EAW and sketch plan. Topics included the insufficiency and errors of the EAW & traffic study, pervasive water and drainage problems, reliance on the Comprehensive Plan, the inherent bias of the EAW and the absurdity of using a report paid for by the developer to evaluate the development.

This was not a public hearing, so I don't think the Council was required to give us time to speak, and the fact that doing so meant that they were still at City Hall at 1:00 a.m. was very generous of them. Yet, I couldn't help but feeling that those who voted with the majority didn't hear a word any of us said. Developing this piece of property for residential use defies all logic. So the efficient thing to do would have been to tell the developer to stop spending his money, tell us that the City is not so short sighted and capricious that they would allow the consequences of this development to befall its citizens, and then make plans to figure out if they are going to make an offer for the golf course.

Alas, they are required to follow a process, and The Process apparently prohibits that rational approach. So Council members asked more questions, bantered about whether or not they really did have enough information, were told they needed to be very specific about what additional information they needed, acknowledged that identifying those specifics wasn't going to happen at 12:30 in the morning, finally gave up, and passed the EAW. Apparently the EAW isn't supposed to answer all questions and all will be revealed at the next decision point, which is after the developer spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a preliminary plat, and momentum continues in his favor.

The Process, I've decided, must have been written by the Builder's lobby. The Process is built on the assumption that development will be done. There is no point in The Process to address whether or not the development should be done, only how it can be done.

So it follows that after over three hours of testimony by residents of Plymouth as to the multiple incomplete and inaccurate aspects of the EAW, the City Council of Plymouth quickly passed the EAW as accurate and complete. A majority of the Council Members wanted more information/and or raised concerns about material unresolved issues. The Mayor acknowledged that The Process is backwards, but he firmly believed that the best way to get more information so a decision can be made is to move the process forward so the developer can prepare his preliminary plat for approval.

Our tax dollars are used to pay for staff to help the developer get this done. The developer has assumed the sale, is working to cultivate relationships on the Council, and stands to make tens of millions of dollars at our expense. Yet it's the seven members of the City Council who will decide if this deal gets done. Their job is to represent the city residents, not the developer. There are structural problems with this development, and it doesn't fit the City's plan. As voters, residents, and participants in our city, it's our job to support the Council and give them the courage to do the right thing.

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