Delays and revisions go back three years; neighbor files new suit
SANTA ROSA – A $20 million-plus beverage-distribution center is under construction near the Sonoma County airport.
What Mesa Beverage Co. Inc. expected would be a straightforward 18-month process to buy 19.5 acres designated in the county General Plan for industrial uses and build about 160,000 square feet of warehouse, distribution and vehicle maintenance facilities has stretched into its third year after two appeals of project approvals and five versions of the key environmental-review document.
“This is a big morale boost for the company to see this building built,” said Mark Herculson, manager of Mesa Beverage Co. Inc. and executive vice president of its San Diego-based parent company Liquid Investments.
Dirt started moving Nov. 10 on 12.5 acres of the site, located at 3200 N. Laughlin Road north of Santa Rosa, and the concrete pad is expected to be poured this month. Completion is targeted for mid-2009. Davey Architecture of San Diego and Del Starrett Architects of Santa Rosa designed the structure, and Lusardi Construction Co., also of San Diego, is the general contractor.
Mesa has been looking to relocate from its current 94,000-square-foot leased facility nearby at 205 Concourse Blvd. since it acquired Golden State Distributing in 2005 and purchased the North Laughlin property that December. In Sonoma and Marin counties, Mesa distributes beers by Miller, Coors, Heineken and local Lagunitas and Mendocino as well as coolers, a few wine brands, bottled water and Red Bull energy drinks.
The current lease expires in May 2009.
Mesa filed a design review permit application in July 2006, and the first public hearing was held 11 months later before the county Design Review Committee. The committee unanimously accepted the mitigated negative declaration of environmental effects from the project and approved the permit in August 2007.
Neighboring property owner Jean McMullen appealed that decision.
In February of this year the county Planning Commission in a 5-0 vote upheld the committee’s decision. Another neighbor, Beverly Schenck, appealed that decision to the county Board of Supervisors.
In the middle of this year, with a year left to go on its lease and project costs mounting, Mesa started to explore alternatives to building, according to Mr. Herculson. One option explored was the purchase of the 289,000-square-foot Beam Wine Estates warehouse on Shiloh Road near the north end of the airport industrial area and leasing the remainder.
On Oct. 21, the Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the second appeal.
Challenges may not be over. On Nov. 18, Ms. Schenck sued the county in Superior Court, claiming that county officials didn’t thoroughly comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
The suit cited traffic, air quality, flooding of her property and water quality in the adjacent Mark West Creek.
Ms. Schenck in 1986 purchased her property, which includes a 150-year-old home. In February of this year, she testified before the Planning Commission that her real estate agent told her the property to the north would not be developed commercially, according to county documents.