1. Hard to fathom that the issue could not be resolved
Who’s in charge?
When it’s a policy issue at City Hall, it should be the City Council. But after a few development companies felt forced to file a lawsuit against the city over residential development fees they believe to be excessive, whether the Council is in charge of policy is anything but clear.
This lawsuit seems to be another in a series of colossal communication breakdowns that are plaguing City Hall.
It’s mind boggling that the mayor and City Council allowed a dispute over development fees to go unresolved – a suit that pits the Filice Family-owned Glen-Loma Corporation and two other developers against the city. The Filices have been doing business in Gilroy for 40 years. The Glen-Loma/city relationship has had significant benefits for both through the years, from the outlet mall development to the purchase of the ranch side addition to Christmas Hill Park.
2. Deterioration in long-standing relationship is concerning
The deterioration in that relationship speaks to the fundamental and ongoing problem at City Hall which is quickly becoming caustic to the community as a whole.
Whether it be developers, school trustees or fire captains, the city administration is sorely lacking on a deep level in the communication department and it’s hurting this community.
The latest example is the fight over fees. Clearly, the price of land and the market for housing has changed. The city undertook a study to determine whether Gilroy’s impact fees needed to be adjusted to reflect that reality. That study concluded that the fees should be significantly lowered. Developers, who agreed to the fees “under protest” pending the study’s outcome, believe the city implied the fees would be reduced retroactively to the housing stock that the developers embarked upon building. The city says no such implied agreement existed. And therein lies the rub.
But that’s not really the problem. The real problem is that this issue went unresolved and has forced the city into an expensive legal battle, which it may or may not win, against one of Gilroy’s long-standing business “partners.”
3. Council has an opportunity to direct policy and resolve issue
It signifies a cultural shift in City Hall that is hardly welcome and, more importantly perhaps, suggests that the City Council is being steered by the administration instead of being behind the wheel.
If this Council, as recent events strongly suggest, is intent on allowing policy decisions to be driven by staff, then perhaps it should put off making any major decisions until after the November election.
Otherwise, the Council should schedule a sit-down session with the city administrator and the city attorneys. Let’s get clear on who’s accountable to the public for decisions and what information is expected to come publicly before the Council for policy direction.
Besides the obvious ethical issue, there’s a fiduciary responsibility here. Money spent on attorneys fighting with the three developers, Glen-Loma, Arcadia Development Corporation of San Jose and Ronan Avenue Investors of Gilroy, is money that won’t be spent on city services.
Meanwhile, perhaps the Council can salvage the situation and fashion a policy directive that can keep the damage and attorney fees to a minimum right now.
Time is money. Can the Gilroy City Council manage to rise from its lethargy and do what it’s charged to do?
Unfortunately, the track record does not suggest that will be the case.