Perhaps sometime later today or early Thursday, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphries will write another chapter in the saga of Tracy, the growing community on the edge of the Big Valley.
When we left off in this “must be a novel,” two developers with plans for thousands of homes miles southwest of Tracy’s downtown went to the City Council with a pair of deals. The Surland Cos. would provide 20 acres and build a $20 million, state-of-the-art aquatics park; AKT Development Co. and Souza Realty
Development would donate $20 million to a proposed state-of-the-art sports facility and 15 acres to the city. In exchange, beginning in 2013, Surland would receive 200 homebuilding permits annually until its Ellis project was completed and AKT/Souza would get 300 annual homebuilding permits for its Tracy Hills project until it was completed about 15 years later.
Numerically, the two developments would tie up 500 of the 600 homebuilding permits allowed annually under an amendment to the city’s growth management ordinance, Measure A. After the deal was offered, the City Council approved Ordinance 1095 to remove the 225-home development agreement cap. Negotiations between the city and the developers continue.
Of course, the husband-and-wife authors of Measure A, local lawyer Mark Connolly and Celeste Garamendi, who is running for mayor in November, didn’t like the deal and filed a lawsuit to not allow the development agreement cap to be removed. They said the cap was an integral part of Measure A.
Will Judge Humphries side with the founders of Tracy Region Alliance for a Quality Community or with the City Council We see the case of TRAQC v. City of Tracy coming down to the power of the voters verses the responsibility of the City Council to determine where Tracy will grow in the next several decades.
Connolly says it was the voters’ intent in 2000 to “lock in” the previous growth ordinance’s development agreement cap when they approved Measure A, citing ballot materials and common legal sense. The city attorneys say since the authors of Measure A didn’t amend that portion of the old growth ordinance, Ordinance 1095 is legal as it expressly complies with the Measure A limit of 600 homes built annually.
We don’t expect this chapter in Tracy’s growth to end after Humphries’ ruling. An appeal or settlement is possible. So, too, is another local referendum. Whichever, it will affect the development agreement negotiations and, of course, the local mayoral and council election in nine weeks. Don’t turn the page.