It was a scenario that city engineer Glen Gebhardt had never before seen.
A developer chiding him for not taking their money.
But when Ramona Chase LLC. Representatives appeared before the Lathrop City Council last week, they were – in the eyes of the city staff and some on the council – asking for more than could possibly be granted no matter how quickly they were willing to break out their checkbook.
And it would have been a big check too – a $7.5 million to guarantee the developer of a 35-acre parcel planned for 208 apartment units as well as commercial and retail the sewer allocation needed to begin construction .
The catch is that Lathrop’s existing sewer allocation process based on the new plant that was constructed as part of the River Islands development gives what has become Lathrop’s largest homebuilder first crack at up to 80 percent of whatever sewer capacity is available.
That’s just the kind of perk that you can negotiate when you’re the one that paid the bill.
What was before the council, however, was whether to essentially double the capacity that the wastewater treatment plant is currently operating at, and whether that would be sufficient enough for existing developers. At full build out the plant will provide more than 9 million gallons of capacity, or more than enough to build out the entire western portion of the community
According to city manager Steve Salvatore, any expansion, requires that the city send out a letter to River Islands notifying them that they’re planning on adding capacity and hearing back how much the developer is actually planning on using. At that point, other large developments are brought into the fold to negotiate for the remaining 20 percent (or more – just because River Island is entitled to that portion doesn’t mean that they’ll take it) or consider bumping it up to the next level if the demand is there.
The current layout and construction plan for the plant calls for expansion to take place in 500,000-gallon segments that are essentially laid down like Lego blocks. Adding two or three doesn’t make any difference as long as there is somebody to pick up the tab on the amount of water. An additional 500,000 gallons would require either somebody to pay for the next rung on the ladder, or for the others to play nice and consider renegotiating so that everybody got a piece of the pie.
It’s a unique scenario. Most of the time its development fees collected over the years and not a single developer that covers the cost of major infrastructure upgrades like the one that Lathrop put in when it built the plant.
Councilman Omar Ornelas took some offense to the allegation that other developers were somehow currying favor with the city by putting money up for portions of this process when he and other members of the city had met on several occasions with Ramona Chase owner Ron Tate, his partner and his legal representative to talk about why guarantees can’t be made.
Salvatore then pointed out that a meeting occurred as early as two weeks ago when those exact dynamics were spelled out clearly.
“I’ve been doing this for 54 years and I’ve never been in this position before,” Tate said from his seat.
Lathrop city attorney Salvador Navarrete said that the city has always maintained a pro-growth environment, and that will continue as it moves forward with other development projects.