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TOWNE CENTRE APPEAL DENIED

Submitted by on 1, October 8, 2008 – 8:00 amNo Comment

UPDATED 11:16 AM

At 2:15 this morning, the City Council voted against taking another look at the environmental assessment of a proposed expansion at Alameda Towne Centre. Councilman Doug deHaan, who went several contentious rounds with the Towne Centre-folk over vacancy rates, city staff over notification and his fellow council members over we can’t even remember what, was the lone vote in favor of the appeal (and good call on that one, Lauren D!).

Residents who live near the shopping center had appealed the Planning Board’s certification of the environmental document, saying it didn’t really address traffic, noise and air pollution being created by the center. But the council said the traffic and other impacts might not all be the shopping center’s fault.

The council did, however, decide to limit the shopping center’s hours, though they granted exceptions to restaurants and for Kohl’s, whose management has said it needs to stay open later during the holiday season. The city will also now require a use permit for truck deliveries outside of existing set hours and will limit the hours leaf blowers, street sweepers and other noisy cleaning machines can be used.

And get ready for the Son of Towne Centre (or grandson? Or great-great-great-great-great grandson?) next meeting, when the council debates whether it will gather additional traffic data once Orchard Supply Hardware, Kohl’s and the Safeway gas station are up and running.

Onetime council candidate and civil engineer Eugenie Thomson, who represented the appellants, questioned the quality of the traffic analysis done for the expansion. And neighbors of the project, including folks who live on Broadway Avenue, a truck route, complained that the increased noise and pollution from increased truck traffic to and from the center has significantly decreased their quality of life and the value of the homes.

But council members, city staff and a representative of the firm that did the traffic study questioned whether the shopping center bore sole responsibility for increased truck traffic. And they said the traffic data had been reviewed several times and had been found to be conservative in its estimates.

DeHaan, who apparently supplied the appellants with sales tax data for the shopping center, pummeled Harsch Investment Properties rep Randy Kyte with questions about the center’s vacancy rate. Kyte responded by calling the kerfuffle over the environmental document “nonsensical.”

After the vote, the debate degenerated into a shouting match in the hallway (as the poor folks from the Alameda Peace Network got up to speak, no less).

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